Elections

On Primary Eve, Bernie Sanders Draws a Huge Crowd — with Help from The Strokes

Supporters of presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders raise their hands at a campaign rally one day before the New Hampshire presidential primary election in Durham, N.H. February 10, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
The Vermont senator and a star-studded list of surrogates drew a packed house of supporters to the University of New Hampshire in Durham last night.

Durham, N.H. — On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, only two politicians were able to draw big enough crowds to fill up arenas: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

While the incumbent Republican president drew 12,000 to a rally in Manchester, Sanders addressed a packed house of 7,500 at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. The Vermont socialist boasted that his rally was three times larger than any other event of the Democratic campaign in the state. But he had the distinct — you might even say unfair — advantage over his Democratic rivals of being able to lure attendees with a free concert by The Strokes that started immediately after the rally. (If you want to see The Strokes next month in California, the cheapest tickets on StubHub run close to $150 a pop.)

Still, the thousands gathered at the University of New Hampshire were wild for Bernie as well as his opening acts: Cynthia Nixon, Cornel West, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Nixon told the crowd that she had backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 but has since seen the light. “Four years ago, I supported Hillary Clinton for president,” Nixon said. The crowd began to boo. “Oh no. Oh no. We’re not gonna do that here,” she said, perhaps mindful of the incident in Iowa where Representative Rashida Tlaib, another prominent Sanders surrogate, led the crowd in booing Clinton, drawing national headlines that forced her to later apologize.

Nixon said she had come to realize that voters won’t show up for a candidate who simply checks all the boxes. “People show up in droves for someone they are passionate about,” she said. “We don’t need just another politician. We need a hero, and that is Bernie Sanders!”

The multimillionaire actress of Sex and the City fame added that people have been “making do with crumbs” and “we’ve been told that those crumbs are a meal. Bernie has taught us to say: I’m done with these crumbs. I want the whole pie.”

When West took the stage, he called Donald Trump a “neo-fascist gangster” to loud cheers. But some of the loudest applause of the night was reserved for Ocasio-Cortez. The congresswoman from New York hailed him as standing up for a left-wing agenda his entire life, even when it was unpopular.

“It is hard to stand up and fight for someone you don’t know when it is not popular, and he has done it his whole damn life!” Ocasio-Cortez exclaimed.

“Who stood up for women and gender-non-conforming people’s right to choose in the ’90s when it was unpopular? Senator Bernie Sanders!” she continued. “Fast-forward to this campaign. Who is the only candidate to call to break up ICE and CBP? Senator Bernie Sanders! That matters.”

The young progressive star also sought to put to rest Democratic fears that Sanders can’t win in November. “We know that in every poll, Bernie beats Trump,” she said, framing the Democratic race as a choice between returning to “business as usual” or moving forward. “Business as usual was not working for working people. . . . As someone who has been told to go back, I’m telling you: We’re moving forward!”

Then, to raucous cheers, she introduced the man himself: “I am so excited to bring you the candidate that will get us there: Senator! Bernard! Sanders!”

When Sanders took the stage, he briefly introduced his family, but, unlike his Democratic rivals, spared the crowd any personal biographical details. Of course, he didn’t need to: The crowd already knows who he is.

Sanders took a few shots at Trump. The president is a “racist, sexist, and a religious bigot,” Sanders told the crowd. “And those are his nice qualities.” He called Trump “not only a liar but a fraud” who hired “undocumented workers” as a businessman and tried to take away health care from millions by repealing Obamacare. He then proceeded to run through a laundry list of left-wing policies his administration would implement: a $15 minimum wage, $60,000 minimum salaries for every teacher in America, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, legalizing marijuana in “every state in this country,” codifying Roe v. Wade, and so on.

Sanders said his election would not only remove the most dangerous president “in modern history” but help start a political revolution. “The last that I heard is that the 1 percent may be very powerful, but there are a hell of a lot more people in the 99 percent than in the 1 percent,” he said as he brought his speech to close. “Let’s win this thing! Let’s transform America!”

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