Bernie came to town yesterday, a day after Hillary worked a few events. I dropped off Georgia and a few of her friends and watched from a distance. It was fascinating.
— It was a pretty white crowd, particularly for New Haven. Not nearly as diverse as the normal free events we have at the Green. But totally filled the Green, so certainly over 8,000 folks.
— He’s a cult figure to many of his fans — even though he’s basically lost the race, the folks around me were saying things like “we are in a revolution, and Bernie will save us...” It will be crushing to these folks when they realize that their revolution can’t even win the Dem. primary.
— He is a pretty poor speaker. No change in tone, the same hand gestures over and over, doesn’t respond to the crowd vibe at all.
— But clearly his anger and grumpiness are really doing it for his supporters. He’s really benefited from a double standard here, I think. I tried to imagine if Hillary employed the same angry grandpa style — didn’t pay particular attention to how she looked, etc. — and realized that she’d most likely be pilloried/ridiculed for it. But the audience clearly loved it.
— His message in some ways is the flip side of Trump’s. No hope agenda. Asking nothing of the audience. Just hammering on all the problems and saying that the entire government, GOP and Dem alike, have completely failed. And the answer is to let him handle it and the rich and corporations will pay for it. No mention of anyone working together to solve problems. Most of all, he came across as someone who is absolutely convinced that he’s right, and doesn’t have time for anyone who disagrees with him.
— And while he didn’t say it directly, he had very little good to say about Obama. No mention that anything positive happened over the last 8 years. The clear implication was that Obama’s vision is not much better than the Republicans'.
— Harshly attacked income disparity in New Haven, and no mention of Mayor Harp, our popular black woman progressive mayor or the fact that New Haven itself is actually a very union friendly town (maybe sometimes too union friendly). Of course, Harp is supporting Clinton.
Obviously a red meat event for the faithful, but I found myself wondering what comes next for him. This didn’t seem like a guy who’d be at all interested in helping the larger Democratic effort if/when he loses. And his rigidity and the fact that he’s proud that he’s never changed his core beliefs for his entire life is what the audience found very appealing, so I’m not sure whether he will be able to figure out a way to encourage at least some of his supporters to support Hillary, or even wants to try.
If I were a Clinton person trying to figure out what to do with Bernie at the convention, I’d be very worried. I certainly wouldn’t want him to deliver his stump speech as is in a prominent spot. Before I was feeling like Sanders had performed a really important function by forcing Hillary to be a better candidate. I still think this is true, but now I’m pretty worried that he might undo some of this positive effect and end up hurting Dem prospects in the general.