That Bernie Sanders‘ presidential campaign motivates young voters is a given. They gave him the surprise victory in Michigan, after all, but to see the power of Sander’s campaign up close, even at a micro-scale, is revelatory. Sanders says he is leading a political revolution. Sometimes I actually find myself believing that.
I originally went to the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) in Warwick to ask local Bernie Sanders supporters about the surprising results of the Michigan primary the night before. That primary demonstrated the strong ground game Sanders has in this campaign. His supporters are devoted: they show up and they work hard.
Lauren Niedel, RI District 40’s Democratic State Committewoman and the RI State Contact for Bernie Sanders, lead a small team of Sanders campaigners at a voter registration drive held as part of a mock election at CCRI. (In the mock election, Sanders won 78 percent of the vote. See here.) A table next to theirs, reserved for Hillary Clinton supporters, was empty.
To attract attention to the mock election and generate a strong turnout for the voter registration drive, David Sears, president of student government at CCRI, invited representatives from the RI state Democratic and Republican Parties to attend. No Republican representatives could participate but RI State Democratic Party Chair Joseph McNamara (also a State Representative in the General Assembly) and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea spoke to a crowd of around fifteen people for about twenty minutes.
Meanwhile, the Bernie Sanders table was nonstop action. Students were eager to register to vote, eager to take stickers and pins and actually were excited about this political campaign. The win in Michigan the night before had invigorated both the Sanders campaigners and the interested students. The video below shows the action at the Sanders table versus the action at the McNamara/Gorbea speeches.
Still, despite the Hillary campaign no-show and the general disinterest of students about anything but the Bernie Sanders table, Rep McNamara was a good sport, and stopped to take a picture with the cardboard Sanders stand-up for the Warwick Beacon, even though he plans to vote for Hillary.
By the way, when I got around to asking the Sanders campaigners about how they felt about the big upset in Michigan, I got the following responses.
Linda Ujifusa said, “When I saw 538 [Nate Silver's blog] I thought it was over. But it was awesome.”
“I was at the edge of my seat,” said Roland Gauvin, “I’m looking for a decisive win in Florida to show that Hillary doesn’t have the super-delegates wrapped up. We the people determine the election.”
Sally Mendzela told me that she “couldn’t be more excited” and Lauren Niedel just smiled and said, “It was great.”