I pretty much had the Bernie Sanders demographic figured out going in but I had to actually see it for myself to really "get it." So it was off to see the wizard with some old and new friends and, as it turned out, 14,000 others of a similar persuasion. To be sure, Yoda has quite the following hereabouts.
The college crowd, of course, arrived in droves — not to mention more than a few bumper-sticker-rich camper vans and what goes for jalopies these days. As nearly as I could tell, there weren’t nearly as many of us "silverbacks" in the seven-mile long line leading up to where the progressive wagons would be circled, but we were fairly well represented. I doubt the line was much more than two miles long when we joined up.
As one who, for whatever reason, has kept the rituals and touchstones of the dominant culture at arm’s length throughout the years, Bernie’s rally would be my first time setting foot upon the hallowed ground of "This is the Place" State Park. Embarrassingly so, I have also yet to step inside Temple Square.
Amid our accordion-like progression over hill and dale, thoughts, as they will, wandered. It felt like, no matter if Bernie is able to upset Hilary’s apple cart, at least in the short term, his candidacy will have shape-shifted the Democratic Party political landscape somewhat more to the progressive side of the equation.
And the truth is, as much as these younger voter-activists respect and are thankful for President Obama’s time in the White House, his bandwagon never arrived at their perceived destination. The full effect of corporate lobbying, especially from the fossil-fuel industry and Wall Street, left them somewhat underwhelmed.
Then along came Bernie and a genuineness of spirit they saw in no other candidate.
Beyond his support for, seemingly, the complete wish-list of the progressive agenda from universal health care, free higher education, and moderated federal marijuana laws to raising the minimum wage, expanding social security, a total ban on "fracking," and repealing Citizens United, supporters see the 74-year old junior United States Senator from Vermont as "sexy" and a "rock star."
I suppose I couldn’t really pen a column dealing with one component of the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign without at least a mention of the elephant in the room — that being, of course, Mr. Donald Trump.
I must admit that, although the base-issues involved are completely at odds with one another, I do understand why the brash political-incorrectness of Trump’s rhetoric does not turn off his grass roots supporters.
During the anti-Vietnam war movement of the ’60s and ’70s, I believed that the over-the-top and outrageous antics of Jerry Rubin and Abbey Hoffman were necessary to draw attention to the incredible depth of the movement’s collective angst. We weren’t sleeping, so why should we allow our fellow Americans a sense of comfort?
But, when all is said and done, how wonderful is it that the donor-elite of the Republican Party (Citizens United, the Koch Brothers, etc.) seems to have misplaced its stun-gun-augmented magic wand they have used to conduct the U.S. Congress all these years. If the process hasn’t begun already, they should demand a full refund from Senator Marco Rubio and his ilk.
If Bernie mentioned the issue of Western state takeover of public lands, however, I must have been too busy assessing the gender distribution of the crowd to notice. Admittedly, I am deeply flawed!
As far as the aforementioned Bernie demographic, it seems to be made up of pretty much everybody from senior citizens to middle school students with a strong component of those of college age. And, although the latter bunch appeared to be the best represented, it became equally apparent that, last Friday anyway, Utah high schools showed a spike on their absentee graphs.
It remains to be seen what percentage of Bernie’s true believers show up for caucus night on March 22. Bernie did make it a point that a large turnout favors him as opposed to his opponent.
With a coefficient of fun similar to that of Monterey Pop, it certainly made for an afternoon well spent with friends and fellow travelers. However the 2016 Presidential campaign plays out, ol’ Bernie is "mos def" a breath of fresh air!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.
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