Each time Bernie Sanders steps in front of a crowd in Arizona, the line between political rally and rock concert gets a bit fuzzier.
We didn’t think things could any more electric after the crowd, freaking out like Justin Bieber fan girls, nearly brought down the risers where the Bernie campaign had seated the press earlier this week. But then, tonight, while the presidential candidate was delivering a rousing speech on the importance of fighting racism, a woman in the audience ripped off her shirt and flung it at the podium, revealing bouncy bare breasts and the painted message: “Hate speech is not free speech.”
The crowd of about 3,350 people, naturally, went wild.
Then Sanders continued on.
And everyone continued to go wild.
The gray-haired, bespectacled U.S. Senator from Vermont didn’t say anything he hasn’t said before. But that didn’t dampen supporters’ enthusiasm. At one point, Sanders had the room shouting the words to his speech along with him — just like loyal rock fans singing along because they've listened to an album on repeat.
Sanders will need all their support if he's got a shot of securing the Democratic nomination. Political experts say the results of Arizona's primary Tuesday could make or break Sanders' campaign.
"The political reality is, if there is a large voter turnout, we will win," Sanders told the crowd. "If there is a low voter turnout we will lose."
Sanders bragged that, unlike former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, he raised the money for his presidential campaign, not from super PACs, but through grassroots fundraising. On average, he said, each person donated $27.
“When you’re not dependent on big money interests you can do what is right for working people,” he said, in his low, gravely way. “I don’t have to worry about some billionaire or Wall Street guy calling me up because we don’t have their money. We don’t want their money. We don’t need their money.”
As he was saying all this, of course, Sanders had to pause every sentence or so while the audience weighed in. “BOOOOOO!” for Clinton and her Super PACs. Raucous, jumping up and down cheering for Sanders and his $27 donations.
Sanders, stooped over the podium, waving his arms left and right, proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and making a university education free for all.
“The American people are telling me … they can’t make it on 8 or 9 or 10 bucks an hour,” he said. “They are tired of working, working, working, and not going anywhere.”
Many of the new jobs created today, he said, require a “lot more education” than the jobs of the past, so a college degree is becoming an essential part of living the American dream.
“The world has changed,” he said. “Our educational system has to change with it.”
The people, decked out in “Feel the Bern” T-shirts and waving blue and white “Bernie 2016” signs, showed their support by whooping, fists pumping, and chanting “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” A few audience members got so excited that they threw their toddlers up in the air.
If he’s elected president, Sanders promised, he’ll expand Social Security and Medicare.
“The Affordable Care Act has done some very good things, but we have a long way to go,” he said, noting that about 29 million Americans still don’t have health insurance and many more have cripplingly high deductibles and co-pays. “Healthcare is a right!”
Sanders also committed to fight for immigration reform — with or without the help of Congress.
“I’m tired of seeing young people with tears running down their cheeks, worrying their parents or their brother or sister will be deported,” he said.
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Sanders finale, delivered to the beat of stomping feet, was a call to action — to revolution.
Recounting the stories of how African-Americans won their civil rights, women won the vote, and the gay and lesbian community won the right to marry, he noted: “The only way we transform this country is when millions of people stand up and say …”
For the next line, the masses joined in.
“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”