Trust them, these loyal supporters still love Bernie
By RAY DUCKLER
Bernie Sanders keeps dreaming about a better world.
And his supporters keep dreaming about Bernie.
They love him, every part of him, from his New York accent, to his rolled up shirtsleeves, to his arms extending into a hard lean against the lectern. And they trust him, too, seeing an honest, decent soul who bears no resemblance to a deceitful snake-oil salesperson.
Would you buy a used car from this man? In the case of the 400 people who showed up at Jim Mitchell Community Park in Warner on Monday, you bet. In Bernie they trust.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Not so much.
“Look at the difference he’s still making,” said Kathy Bush of Concord, moments after Sanders finished a half-hour pep rally. “Hearing Bernie today gave me focus and direction.”
It was the second stop for Sanders. He had appeared in Manchester in the morning, campaigning for Clinton and Maggie Hassan, and he was scheduled for another pro-Hillary rally later in the day in Lebanon.
But sandwiched in between was a personal plea by Bernie, following the formation of his new Our Revolution group. It had the feel of a campaign speech, an unscheduled push, devoid of media, for a new mind-set in America, of health care as a right, not a privilege, of corporate greed poisoning our political system, of conflicts of interest, of bolstering the middle class, and all of those other points Sanders spoke about before the Democratic convention in July gave the nod to Clinton.
His messages resonated here, leading to a 22-point win over Clinton in the New Hampshire primary. And while many Sanders supporters have moved to the Clinton camp since her nomination, many have not budged.
Not with an email scandal and a conflict of interest scandal stemming from her time as secretary of state. And certainly not with the wealthy donors she’s got on her side.
Sanders, who Monday railed against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and the Koch brothers, both symbols of endless dollars fueling our political system, stands for something totally different, right?
“I trust both (Clinton and Trump) minimally,” said Michael Doyle of Goffstown, who works in the printing business. “You can’t trust Trump because he’s a bigot, and (Clinton’s) nice in public, but behind closed doors, she’s terrible.”
Then Doyle mentioned Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee for president and a savior in certain corners of the country, now that Sanders has endorsed Clinton.
“He has the same platform as Jill Stein,” Doyle pointed out. “How can he support Hillary and not Jill Stein? I don’t feel betrayed. I just don’t get it.”
Sanders, who stopped to pose for lots of selfies, including one with a girl who had blue hair, waved me off when I asked for comment on Stein. I wanted to know what he thought of her. I wanted to know how closely his political views aligned with hers.
During his speech, though, Sanders alluded to Stein, saying, “I’m going to do everything I can to see that Hillary Clinton is elected.”
A few people booed.
“I understand it,” Sanders continued. “You’re talking to the longest-serving independent in the history of the United States Congress. I know a little bit about third-party politics, and I understand there are people who may not agree with me, and I understand that.”
Still, wherever Sanders goes, with his loyal followers in tow, thoughts of a third party dance in their heads. When people have this level of trust, when the establishment gets knocked on its butt and voters see a tiny crack that could lead to real change, they don’t leave the scene easily.
Gary Filiault and his wife, Jacki, of New Boston, a pair of silver-haired retired math teachers, brought a happy birthday sign for Sanders (he’ll be 75 Thursday). They gave a few hundred dollars to his campaign, the first time they’ve donated to a political candidate.
Their 26-year-old daughter turned them on to Sanders last year, and they loved his anti-corporate, pro-environment stances.
And they loved something else, too.
“Sincerity, honesty,” Gary said.
Then he seamlessly transitioned into talk of a third party, which Sanders people tend to do.
“There are about 10 percent of the Libertarians for Gary Johnson and maybe 5 or 6 percent for Jill Stein,” Gary said. “Plus, with the Bernie influence, if all three got together, that could be a base for a third party.”
He continued: “I’d prefer not to vote for the lesser of two evils, but for the best and most responsible person among two candidates.”
Kari Zwick of Concord, a special education teacher at Concord High, felt the same tug of indecision. She, too, will vote for Clinton, but said, “She’s taken a lot of money from a lot of corporate supporters. She’s indebted to them, so I have to believe they will have a say in how she votes.”
It’s a sure thing that Sanders’s supporters don’t believe their man could be bought, but he won’t have a chance to prove it in the White House.
His star has faded somewhat. He’s no longer protected by the Secret Service, and his entourage was a driver and no one else. His parking spot was a small section outside the park, on the side of the road, with a sign written in magic marker hanging on an orange ribbon, connected to two granite posts.
“Parking for Senator Sanders.”
No one in the park cared. Sanders’s voice thundered from a pair of speakers, echoing over the steeply slanted grass landscape filled with people on blankets. The fingers on his right hand jabbed forward as he spoke, as though poking the chest of society’s status quo, pushing for change.
“You have to go with your gut,” said Meegan Dee of Antrim, who owns a tie dye business. “My gut tells me he’s a straight shooter and not playing games.
“Everyone else is just talk.”
(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rayduckler.)