No, I better not go. I think I’m too busy. But busy doing what? I’ve been writing about Donald Trump for several years and working to finish my second book about the blowhard from Queens. I can’t sit at my computer when Bernie Sanders is just a few miles away and soon to speak. I hustle to my car and drive by expensive suburbs and the state university to Spectrum Amphitheater where I’ve only attended rock concerts.
A few Trump supporters, clad in red Trump caps and T-shirts bearing their hero’s surname above “Keep America Great,” are sitting under a tree near the parking lot entrance where a security guard says, “It’s full.”
Not bad. Most concerts don’t fill up the lot a half hour before showtime.
“Let me check it out,” I say, and luck into a place just vacated by some picnickers.
I take my folder and step out to join people flowing toward the amphitheater like fans eager to hear their favorite band. Then we reach a long line leading to security entrances. To the left two young men bear signs saying “Socialism is Bad.” I’d like to reassure them that Bernie’s socialism is the northern European style of wealthy countries making sure everyone has health insurance and a roof overhead, but there’s no time. The line moves and soon I’m emptying my pockets.
I sit in the last row of an amphitheater filling fast, and after several stacked rows of photogenic supporters stand on little bleachers stage rear, and some preliminary speakers discuss the perils of living without insurance, Bernie Sanders marches to the microphone before a full house and more standing on the hill curving behind the seats. He’s wearing black slacks, a light blue shirt with long sleeves rolled up and an open collar, and soon dons a dark blue baseball cap to shield himself from spring-like sun pumping out seventy-four degrees. Bernie’s even hotter, offering not surprises but passion and promises I scribble the essence of on paper braced by my notebook.
“We’ve got to work together to solve our problems,” he declares. “I won’t tolerate the obscene level of income disparity in this nation. A few days ago I debated Michael Bloomberg, who’s worth sixty-five billion dollars. He says he worked hard for that money, and I’m sure he did. But he’s not the only person working hard in America. Democracy means one person one vote, not some multi-billionaire buying elections. We’ve got to overturn Citizens United, and get rid of voter suppression, and end extreme gerrymandering.
“I want to make sure we get the highest level of voter turnout in the world, not one of the lowest. Our staff and volunteers here in California have knocked on almost a million doors to defeat the most dangerous president in our history. He’s a pathological liar, a racist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, and a religious bigot, and those are his better qualities.”
That line brings the biggest cheer yet. Bernie, hunched a little and emphasizing points with his right hand, continues, “We’re going to win because we’re going to bring our people together. If you work forty hours a week, you should not live in poverty. We need a minimum wage of at least fifteen bucks an hour. And we need more unions to improve conditions for workers. We also need affordable housing. We get that by creating good-paying union jobs and understanding the importance of education. I’m fighting so every teacher in America can earn at least sixty thousand dollars a year. We need affordable education. I would cancel all student debt. And we must understand that health care is a right, not a privilege. We’ve been talking about universal health care more than a hundred years, back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt. When I’m president we will pass single payer Medicare for all. No one will pay more than two hundred dollars per year for prescription drugs.”
I draw a breath and hope Bernie does too.
“Climate change is real,” he says. “I visited Paradise (CA) where a massive fire destroyed everything. Look at the ongoing fires that are burning up Australia. (More than a billion animals have been killed to date). Scientists say the problem is worse than they thought and if we don’t get it together there will be a hundred million climate refugees worldwide. We must take on the greed and lies from the fossil fuel industry. And, of course, we must guarantee that workers who lose jobs receive pay and job training for five years.
“We’ve got to invest in our young people. We’ve got to end private prisons. We need to legalize marijuana in all states. Instead of large corporations making all the money, we’re going to enable blacks and Latinos to benefit from the sale of pot. They’re the ones who’ve suffered most because of bad laws.”
I grab more blank papers in my folder.
“I will end the demonization of undocumented immigrants in this country,” Bernie says. “Donald Trump is a fraud. He loves undocumented workers as long as they’re the ones he pays low wages to work at his properties. I will help the DACA people (who were brought here as children). I’ll make sure no babies aren’t ripped their mothers’ arms.
“When I’m president our gun policies won’t be determined by the NRA. There’ll be universal background checks and I’ll close the gun show loopholes. The Republicans complain we’ve got to get government off our backs. They want to outlaw abortions. Don’t Republicans understand that women control their bodies, not the government.”
Surveying several thousand supporters in red Kern County, Sanders must be happy he leads all primary opponents by at least ten percentage points in recent statewide polling.
“California is the largest state in the nation. The candidate who wins here will likely win the Democratic nomination. Bring your aunts and uncles, people you haven’t seen in years… I’m inspired by audiences like this. Look at the diversity. We’re ready to take on the military industrial complex and the prison industry and we’re taking on the top one percent. They aren’t paying their share of taxes. The Democratic and Republican establishments are getting nervous. I’ve got news for them. They can’t stop us when we stand together.”
I’m rushing like I do after a good concert but have no idea how Bernie Sanders and the nation would pay for all these wonderful services.
Notes: I stand and stroll to the shade of a tree and ask one of the Trump supporters, a stocky man with a mustache, if I can talk to him. He agrees and we shake hands, and for about ten minutes I mostly listen as he delivers talking points he repeats after departing, just outside the amphitheater where he and a couple of other red shirts are surrounded by the Bernie brigade. Several muscular police officers study the scene. People are outraged by fossil fuels.
“I’ve been an all oil worker for many years,” the man says. “How’d you get here today? Oh, you drove. So what’re we going to do with all these cars? How many out of all you have an electric car? Let’s see, two. Okay, the rest of you leave your cars in the parking lot and walk home. And take off your shoes because gas is used to make them.”
Bernie Sanders is already en route to Nevada where he wins the caucus the next day and then flies to Texas, one of fourteen Super Tuesday prizes on March third. Three days earlier he’ll battle Joe Biden in South Carolina.