At least 1,100 very enthusiastic people packed into the small, overheated gymnasium at Central High School in Phoenix on Sunday to hear Bernie Sanders speak. It has been a few months since Sanders last visited, and the excitement in the room was on full display – from "Bernie 2016" shirts and pins to chants of "Bernie! Bernie!" and enthusiastic renditions of the wave.
After opening remarks by state representative Juan Mendez, county recorder nominee Adrian Fontes, and State Senator Martín Quezada — local politicians who endorsed Sanders early on — the Vermont senator took the stage. Standing at a podium in front of a giant Clinton-Kaine banner, he delivered what can best be described as his campaign's greatest hits.
For an hour, Sanders gesticulated wildly and meandered from Citizens United to immigration reform to universal health care to sustainable energy to criminal-justice reform to civil rights. He recycled some of his popular buzzwords and hit on many of the progressive ideas that lured millions of voters across the nation to the polls to vote for him in the primaries: creating an economy that benefits the middle and working classes; adjusting the "totally insane" interest rates on student debt; raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour; and starting a "political revolution."
The pundits like to portray elections as being about personality and popularity, Sanders said, but this isn't high school.
"This election is not about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it's not about Bill Clinton or Mrs. Trump, it's about you and the working families of this country."
The crowd erupted into applause.
"I love you, Bernie!" screamed a woman near the front of the gym.
For an audience that was a fraction of the size of the crowds Sanders used to pull when he visited Arizona during the primary season, Sunday's attendees were surprisingly loud. Space was limited, and about 200 people listened from outside the building.
They cheered when he said Clinton was the candidate who'd bring the country together and that she'd pass comprehensive immigration reform. And they booed when he spoke about Donald Trump's promise to revoke the Affordable Care Act, his federal-tax avoidance, and his belief that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese.
On this last point, Sanders called Trump's stance "another profound difference" between the two candidates and joked that Clinton's belief in science makes her a radical in government.
Overall, Sanders' speech was fiery yet optimistic. At multiple points, he painted Tuesday's election as a critical moment in American history and a choice between two very different paths forward.
"I find it incomprehensible that in the year 2016, after all of those struggles, we have a Republican candidate who — the cornerstone of his campaign is bigotry," he said to applause. "Not only should we defeat Trump," he said a little later, "but '¡Bazta Arpaio!' as well." More cheers.
The audience, which included people of all ages and races, seemed to be largely Bernie fans-turned-Clinton supporters. Many wore "Bernie" T-shirts with an "I'm with Her" pin, or vice versa.
"We've been Bernie supporters for a long time," audience member Jose Gruner told New Times. "I wanted him first, but it is what it is. Bernie is a good man and Hillary is a good woman."
Others seemed less enthusiastic about the Democratic nominee. "We were with Bernie from the very beginning and now we're voting for Hillary," a woman said as the man beside her nodded. "We're going to keep our eye on her," she added.
Even if some in the audience were reluctant Clinton supporters, one statement toward the end of Sanders' speech brought the crowd to its feet.
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"Apparently, if you're a billionaire in this country, you don't have to pay taxes. But I say to you, Mr. Trump, 'We've got some bad news for you,'" Sanders said. "'The first bad news is that you're going to lose on Tuesday, you're going to lose here in Arizona. And the second bad news is that you and your billionaire friends are going to start paying their fair share.'"
Added Sanders: "Change never takes place from the top on down, always from the bottom on up. Change happens when ordinary people look around and say the status quo is not right."
Sanders then began waiving a printout of the 2016 Democratic platform.
"You helped write this!" he said. "Our immediate task in the next two days is to get as many people out to vote. [But] the day after the election, we need your help to make sure this party platform becomes reality. We need your help to make sure we transform this country into the nation we know it can be."