Hundreds of people in the Phoenix area will join tens of thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters across the country tonight to participate in the first official nationwide grassroots organizing meeting for the Sanders presidential campaign.
In an event the campaign is calling “unprecedented,” people will gather in homes, coffee shops, town halls — even breweries — to discuss politics, strategize for the campaign, and watch a livestream speech by Sanders. So far, according to the campaign website, 99,587 people have RSVPd for one of the 3,344 meet ups across the country.
Of the 27 registered meetups in the Valley, almost all are at capacity. People are holding meetings in downtown Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Glendale, Chandler, Scottsdale, Peoria, and in places outside the metropolitan area — Cave Creek resident Steve Pilcher is hosting a meeting at a local bar that as of Wednesday morning, has 108 RSVPs.
Scrolling through the event possibilities online, the descriptions are full of the progressive rhetoric that’s propelled Sanders from a lesser-known Vermont Senator and presidential candidate, to Hillary Clinton’s main contender for the Democratic nomination.
But not every event in the area has an overwhelming list of attendees. Consider Vivian Hughes, a 52-year-old mother of two who currently works three part-time jobs, and as of Wednesday morning has only 4 RSVPs for her Morristown meet up tonight.
Hughes tells New Times that she knows Morristown is an unlikely breeding ground for a big Sanders campaign, since, as she puts it, the small town of about 200-plus people is “mostly Republican” and full of “cowboys.” But, she adds, “you gotta start somewhere, right?”
She says she’s never been one to get excited about political candidates before, but something about Sanders is different. “I remember the first thing I heard about him that really caught me, it was when he said he was going to take a novel approach to his campaign and tell the truth.”
She likes that he doesn’t talk down to the people the way she feel other candidates do. “I’m so tired of being insulted by candidates who think we’re dumb,” or who, like Jeb Bush, “think we need to work harder.” She was outraged when he said that, “I work three jobs just to get by, [and was] the first girl in my family to graduate from high school!”
Hughes is still saddled by debt from her college loans, and loves what Sanders has to say about making higher education more affordable and overturning Citizens United — “I just don’t see how thing can continue to go the way they’re going,” she says. With the other candidates, it just seems like “they get paid off, we get screwed…It’s like we’re being sold out, that’s how I feel.”
Sure, Arizona is a red state, she says, “but I think that could change, I really do. You talk to regular people and they want change. They are downright stinking tired.” And that’s exactly why she said she decided to host one of the organizing meetings tonight.
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So far, her list of attendees is a handful of neighbors. But, she says, they’re a committed group, and are planning to spend much of this evening strategizing ways to get the world out about Sanders’ message, and to get more people from Morristown on what the campaign calls “Team Bernie.”
“I’m excited about this election, and haven’t been in a while. Bernie is the only one who wants me after the election. He’s saying if he [becomes president] he will need us, and that’s what a candidate should be saying. I get the message from [every other candidate] that they just want to trick me into voting for them, and they wouldn’t care if I dropped dead.”