Manchester, NH—It’s over. The contest is over. And Bernie Sanders has won. He’s now the frontrunner. In less than two months, former Vice President Joe Biden’s stock has crashed harder than Wall Street 1929. He has claimed victory, which shouldn’t shock anyone; this is his backyard. Yet, the field is more crowded in 2020—and he faced a solid challenge from former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who might have won this state if it were not for Sen. Amy. Klobuchar’s (D-MN) rise in the polls. She has been able to stick around due to her consistent strong showings at the debates—and it’s paid off; Klobuchar came in third.
The energy in the South New Hampshire University Field House, where the election night rally was held, was palpable. These people are ready to go. In the Trump camp, it’s the same feeling. Both sides are passionate. Both sides are itching for that general election match-up. And both sides back candidates that appeal to blue-collar voters and want to blow up the system. The Sanders crowd wants a revolution. The Trump camp wants to Keep America Great. Opposite sides of the same coin.
As the Vermont democratic socialist took the stage, he first thanked the thousands of volunteers that allowed him to clinch this key win, and he declared that night was the “beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” which drew loud applause. Sanders was confident that his momentum could carry him in Nevada and South Carolina, where he trails Biden by eight points in a recent ECU poll. Sanders also thanked his opponents, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg for running solid campaigns in the state. Okay, maybe not Joe Biden, who had a dismal single-digit finish.
One staffer behind me mockingly said, “let’s give it up for, Joe.” Sanders is insanely confident on the stump that he and his followers can unite and defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country. And the reason there will be victory is due to his movement having unprecedented grassroots energy, which spreads from coast-to-coast. It’s multi-generational and racial—points he loves to highlight. The ultimate goal for 'President Sanders' is “a government and economy that works for all of us.”
It was a quick address, one that got to the point, unlike Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) never-ending victory speech during the Iowa Caucus in 2016. Sanders said that his campaign is taking on billionaires and “candidates funded by billionaires,” a not so subtle swipe at Pete Buttigieg.
He then rattled off all the key parts of his agenda.
“Health care is a human right,” Sander declared. The wealthy and the powerful are going to start paying their fair share of taxes, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, and canceling all student debt were all points that drew loud applause.
Sorry for these late pics, folks - wifi was not the best. They let more supporters in prior to Bernie taking the stage for his victory speech #NHprimary2020 #NHprimary #BernieSanders pic.twitter.com/0Qs2X2VPha— Matt Vespa (@mVespa1) February 12, 2020
You could feel the energy in the room. Bernie’s people are just as animated and interesting as Trump supporters. Doesn’t mean they’re right but they’re fun to speak to about politics #NHprimary2020 #NHprimary #BernieSanders pic.twitter.com/hp3OGCJAbB— Matt Vespa (@mVespa1) February 12, 2020
As for those in the Rust Belt who are doing well thanks to natural gas. Sanders has bad news for you: he’s going to put you out of work, saying he is prepared to tell the fossil fuel industry that their short-term profits are not more important than our planet—another saber-rattling moment for his climate change agenda.
Sanders also hit on an issue that Trump has made headway in concerning criminal justice reform. Sanders declared he will end this racist system we have, pass comprehensive immigration reform, and promote a gun safety agenda that’s dictated by the American people, not the National Rifle Association.
In the end, Sanders said this campaign is not just about beating Trump, it’s about transforming America, taking on Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, the pharmaceutical industry, and the insurance industry. Before he left, Sanders urged Americans to join his effort.
As I said, there is some overlap, specifically the call to have an economy and a government that works for all of us. There is a wing of the Trump coalition that would find that part of Sanders' speech to be quite appealing and they’re more economically progressive.
I’m not suggesting that they could be siphoned off, though that is a possibility. It’s too early to get into all of that—but with these two camps—as jacked up as they are—this 2020 race could be quite messy and tight should Sanders become the nominee.
Yet, even with that short victory speech, there was a lot of action items. What is the number one thing these folks feeling the Bern want to see accomplished?
Charlene from Manchester couldn’t really decide at first.
“They’re all so important,” she said. “Health care is a human right and there are so many people that are suffering because they don’t have the health care and they’re just not getting the treatment that they need,” she added. So, Medicare for All—to no one’s surprise was a top contender.
Richard Sonderegger and his wife, Susan Hackett, had to also agree that Medicare for All is the top issue they want a potential Sanders administration to pass.
“We have Medicare and we love it,” said Hackett. “And so, I look and say, why don’t my kids, why don’t my grandkids have the same type of coverage that I have.” She told a story of a friend of hers suffering from osteoporosis who fell in Manhattan and had to have a required surgery to fix a break. There was no skipping around it, but Hackett was outraged by the price tag
“ She went to the hospital. She’s retired. She’s in her 70s. She got bill $42,000 for a twenty-minute surgery. That was absolutely required; there was nothing she could do. And she has insurance and she’s retired,” she said.
At the same time, Hackett is not happy at what she sees as the Democrats playing games in the primary again.
“We got to get Trump out. He is insane, but the DNC better play right. If this looks like they’re playing games, particularly with Bloomberg, the way they did with Clinton four years ago – absolutely unacceptable,” she declared. And it looks like that’s what’s happening in the upcoming debate before the Nevada caucuses, which Sanders’ top adviser Jeff Weaver voiced frustration over. The DNC appears to be changing the rules.
Mandy from New Bedford, Massachusetts wants to “make America…America again.” Her number one priority she wants to see him accomplished: “money out of politics. Democracy back.” No Medicare for All or climate change initiatives?
“Those are extraordinarily important, but I feel like we can’t move forward on any political agenda item until big money is out of politics,” she said as she prepared to enter the rally.
Joshua and Chris from Connecticut agreed that health care was the top item they want to see enacted. Chris volunteered for the Sander campaign, while Josh said that he has Medicare for All on at the top of his list, but also noted tax policy as well.
“I think It’s connected. So, I would say Medicare for All, but you can’t do Medicare for All unless you do tax the wealthy,” he said. “So, to me, those are my two. I think tax the wealthy is connected to everything that he’s doing. So, Medicare for All would be the program, but tax the wealthy is the financial piece of it.”
Aletha Shapiro from Long Island sounded a bit Trumpian, saying “I would like to see him redistribute the power back to the people.” That’s something that Trump has said at his rallies across the country.
“I think that’s the biggest thing we’re facing is income inequality and I think that the pitchforks have not only come, but they’re going to be faster and more furious,” she said. “And I live in a very upscale neighborhood in Long Island and I sympathize with the people that I’ve met out on the streets and I think that it’s just really unfair what’s going on in our society.”
When asked if she sees any similarities between the Trump and Bernie folks, she agreed.
“You know, I do actually see some overlap between Trump supporters and Bernie supporters. I think in a way, they could be the same person, the same—two different sides of the coin because I think that Trump really did steal away some of the working class and middle-class voters away from the Democrats and I think Bernie can bring them home.”
So, if Bernie fails to win the nomination, will she vote for Trump? Sadly, that’s a bridge too far, though undoubtedly a sizable chunk of Bernie supporters probably voted for Trump in 2016.
“Would I vote for Trump? Absolutely not. Obviously, we’re going to have some kind of Democratic nominee, I would never vote for Trump. Of course, I would vote for any Democrat, but I think honestly it would be catastrophic if Bernie does not get the nomination,” she warned. “I think people would be so devastated and it would turn so many people off. It would be abysmal.”
The next contest begins is in Nevada.