On Saturday, February 29 I went down to the Bernie Sanders rally in Springfield, Virginia. I went because as one of the new co-chairs of the Northern Virginia Branch of Metro DC DSA, I felt obligated. The big man was in my area, so I wanted to see him.
The traffic and parking was horrendous, the outside weather conditions were cold and windy. But I and everyone else attending made the most of it. There were more important things afoot. After finally securing a parking spot, I made my way to the arena, and into the long line of people slowly moving closer to the entrance.
There were quite a few tables set up outside mostly selling Sanders themed swag and merchandise. One table that did stand out was our very own comrades from the Labor working group tabling for Right to Work repeal legislation.
Eventually, I moved with the crowd through security, and got into the stadium. Once inside I was amazed, and would continue to be amazed, at the amount of people inside the arena. There weren’t the stereotypical “Bernie Bros” either; the crowd was really a polyglot group of ages, ethnicities, and genders. I found myself thinking, and later tweeting, if we in Nova DSA could mobilize and/or recruit even a part of that large crowd, how much we could accomplish!
The rally began with the local DC area band The Strokes, who gave a good performance that got the crowd into a good positive mood. Next came the other speakers. Local Virginia Delegate Lee Carter gave an impassioned speech about the Sanders’ campaign becoming the vehicle for working class issues and expression, something long ignored in American politics. Representative Ilhan Omar gave one of the most fiery speeches I have ever seen her give. She spoke to the anger of working class and minority Americans, who felt ignored by those in privilege. Omar took to task those who would ignore Bernie, as ignoring the needs and concerns of average citizens. She said that Sanders was a man of righteous anger. Her mentioning the term, reminded me of the prophets of Israel who also spoke truth to power on behalf of the disadvantaged. If so, Bernie is in good company with his own Jewish heritage.
And then Sanders came, and the entire crowd, later counted to be over 10,000, erupted in cheers. I have seen Bernie being applauded as he comes out on stage via screen, but to experience it myself is completely different. To have thousands of people erupt with such passion, such hope, such faith in one man who is trying to mobilize them all is an experience I will never forget. Sanders gave his usual stump speech, which I must admit I’m so used to hearing by now. The crowd still cheered at the usual points. Sanders did bring up again his general election strategy of revealing Trump’s fraudulent nature, by using a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
To me the takeaway wasn’t Sanders’ speech, it was the crowd’s reaction. Ten thousand people want Medicare For All. Ten thousand people want Student Loan Jubilee. Ten thousand people want a better world. Ten thousand people want Socialism. My only regret was not having a DSA table there to get people to join the organization. People are hungry for change, tired of the way things are, angry about the system that is. I saw people who had a world to win!
Eric S. is co-chair of the Northern Virginia branch, Metro DC DSA, and a past contributor to the Washington Socialist.