(THE PICKET) – Thursday night the Town Run Brewing Company buzzed to life as people from all over Shepherdstown and the surrounding area thronged to the location to attend a Bernie Sanders’s campaign event.
The atmosphere was energetic as the crowd overflowed the available seating, with hundreds of people spread throughout the room standing shoulder to shoulder. The event was what Sanders’s campaign organizers referred to as a “Bern Storm” geared toward mobilizing the base and finding campaign volunteers, the fifth one to date in West Virginia.
Attendees ranged from current and former Shepherd students, to townies and business owners of all ages. During the first thirty minutes of the event, people were encouraged to speak to each other and discuss why they were “feeling the Bern.” A common thread was the idea that Sanders was going to bring about a paradigm shift in American politics, away from the current system where corporate campaign funding, lobbyists, and a regulatory framework favoring top earners is seen as undermining the principles of free democratic government.
One of the symbols of that corrupt and self-serving system, or at least the one that was invoked the most that night, was Hillary Clinton and the “Clinton Dynasty.”
“America pushes for democracy all over the world, but we don’t have democracy here! We have a dynasty that needs to end, and we need to make sure there is never another Clinton inside the White House,” said Sanders staffer Corbin Trent to thunderous applause.
Sanders’s supporters see him as distinct from the breed that normally operates out of Washington. Politicians such as Clinton and Ted Cruz are viewed by many at the event as typical politicians out to secure their own ends, even if it is at the expense of the average American. One of the most common reasons for supporting Sanders given by attendees was that they could trust him because he was consistently honest about his intentions throughout his political career pushing for the issues concerning them rather than personal gain or time in the spotlight.
“He’s the only candidate that is speaking honestly to the issues that concern me the greatest. The rise in power of large banks, global warming, and income inequality….what Bernie is trying to do is create a political revolution where money isn’t the primary driver of politics,” said John Meeker, a former editor of The Picket in the 1990s.
Former Shepherd student Kyra Soleil said she first heard of Sanders’s in an email from End Citizens United. He immediately stood out to her for his stances against corporate campaign funding and lobbying, what she sees as some of the catalysts of corruption and greed in modern politics. “To have someone speak so honestly and passionately about that is inspiring, someone who respects this generation of voters is exciting,” she said.
Sanders supporter Marcy Clemens said she worries for her children’s future in a world where she believes the economy is rigged and built to favor the greedy.
“What am I going to tell them about working hard and getting a return on their investment,” she asked. “It’s not true, I’m 40 and I know it’s not true.”
Attendees say they always believed that Sanders had a chance, and that the idea he couldn’t win was manufactured by a media industry in Clinton’s pocket, or at the very least heavily biased in favor of her.
“I always thought he had a chance,” said former Shepherd student Ben Johnson. “Media coverage and polls are never accurate.”
Kyra Soleil added to that.
“The media is controlled by corporate funding and is fighting against people believing he’s actually viable as a candidate,” Soleil said. “However he has this [social] media that’s controlled by this younger generation and he almost solely dominates the youth vote.”
However, the youth vote alone won’t be enough to carry Bernie Sanders to the presidency. The purpose of Trent’s “Bern Storm” was to mobilize as many of Sanders’s already committed supporters as possible to host phone banks and calling parties to recruit volunteers for the campaign. The momentum is with Sanders in the primaries right now, and his people want to keep it that way. Trent and the other staffers encouraged as many people as possible to get involved in the campaign calling people around the country and going door to door to feel for Sanders’s support and find more volunteers.
“Whatever candidate becomes the president I don’t think there is going to be earth-shattering changes in America,” Johnson said. “But I think if anything else it’s at least a nudging in a positive direction.”
Meeker doesn’t believe much will change as long as the current Congress is power. “We can either have Bernie Sanders as our president and argue about whether socialism is a good idea, or we can have Hillary Clinton as our president and we can have hearing on Benghazi for the next few years,” he said.