Across the nation Wednesday evening, more than 100,000 people attended 3,725 gatherings to view a livestream address by presidential candidate and US Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.). Eleven of those events took place in homes, bars, and other venues throughout Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and I was privileged to be part of a raucous and fun viewing party hosted by Byron Van Buren and his family in Brentwood. It was a rush. Let me tell you, I am still abuzz — my mind reels! — at the thought that a genuine grassroots revolution appears to be underway.
We were a diverse group of slightly more than 20: high school and college students, middle class and affluent folks ranging from the ages of 30ish to retirement, progressives and conservatives. All had different reasons for wanting to hear more from the firebrand New England pol who has spent decades in government focused only on We The People. Many cited Sanders’ integrity, his long record in working for civil rights and economic justice, his fight against Wall Street supremacy, his unwavering populism and refusal to toe any party line, his stand against the Iraq War, his “progressive manifesto” (including free tuition at public colleges and a single-payer health system). Some, “feeling the Bern,” were ready to declare themselves all in; others simply wanted more information on the man. And as we shared stories prior to the livestream, something became obvious. Everyone sensed Bernie Sanders may be the last hope for a US that offers opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
The party erupted in cheers when the livestream countdown concluded and white-maned Sanders, actually standing before a group of 200 in Washington, DC, appeared on the television screen. He spoke of returning the US to an old idea, to being a nation of, by, and for the people. Over and over, he said, “Enough is enough,” as he bemoaned the elevation of corporations over people, the inability of too many to afford higher education, a heath care system that still shuts out too many, the dangerous reality for people of color in this country, the lack of a vital reform of immigration policy.
“My god,” said one party attendee, shaking his head. “This is a real progressive vision.”
Indeed. This is no one’s hopey-changey bull.
The address left the crowd at the Van Buren home energized. Immediately after the speech, we fired up our smartphones to sign up to volunteer for the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign. And then we gushed. Some agreed with every word the man said. Others pointed out disagreements with several of his stances, including his position on guns. Everyone, however, agreed that here was something we had never before seen, a political figure who told it as he saw it, a real human being with integrity.
“This could be the time for a true grassroots revolution,” said host Byron. “That’s what it will take to make sure this man is our next president. And I think it is possible.”
Next on the agenda was a game. Byron and his wife — intelligent, creative and well-informed people — led us in a trivia contest to show how much we really knew about Bernie Sanders. The prize for each correct answer was a single-serving cup of (naturally) Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. It was so much fun: Among other things, we learned that Bernie’s dad was a paint salesman, that he spent seven years as mayor of Burlington, Vt., that in 2010 he famously stood for eight hours in a filibuster against another tax cut for the rich. I won a cup of Cherry Garcia for knowing that Sanders had spent 16 years in the US House of Representatives before moving to the Senate in 2006.
The game completed, we exchanged contact information, friended one another on Facebook, brainstormed about strategy, and made plans to connect with other area Bernie supporters to get this revolution moving full steam ahead. I believe this is going to happen. Whether we win remains to be seen; no votes will be cast until next year. But I think everyone at the Van Burens’, and thousands of people throughout the country, are feeling real hope that a real candidate focused on making a true progressive vision reality for the betterment of the people in the US can happen. And they are committed to putting boots on the ground to get it done.
How cool is that? My mind reels!