It seems that Bernie Sanders has entered a new phase in his campaign – one in which he must make one final Hail Mary pass in order to become the Democratic nominee. Whether or not he gets enough votes remains to be seen – there are still several state primaries to win in order to beat Hillary. The New Mexico primary on June 7 will be yet another test: how well can he get across to voters, and gain their support in the fight for the nomination?

An immensely long line of people formed outside the Santa Fe Community College’s gym last Friday; some supporters arrived outside the building in the early morning, wanting to make sure they had a good view. My companion and I ended up waiting in line for an hour and a half – a trifle compared to the wait of others.

The crowd I encountered at the rally consisted of whites, Hispanics, Native Americans, and a few Asians and African-Americans. They ranged in age from two years to eighty; about half of them were women. While there were a large number of younger people, there were plenty of older age groups present. The assortment of people seemed to represent New Mexico rather well.

Bernie Sanders in Santa Fe
Bernie Sanders in Santa Fe

Three speakers came onstage before Sanders: I regret to say that they were hard to understand. But I got the gist of their speeches – they supported Sanders because of his concerns for New Mexican issues. Many communities in New Mexico are badly financed and undereducated, especially Native American ones. Senator Sanders has a special interest in native issues – he even has a Native American advisor to assist him during his campaign. Since the state has a large native population, he has become very popular among some residents.

After the third speaker – a man in a cowboy hat, who touched on income inequality – we continued to wait for several minutes.The crowd began to get impatient, chanting “We want Bernie! We want Bernie!” A man leaned over the side of the railing on the second floor of the gym and shouted, “LET’S GET  LOUD!” The crowd roared.

Finally Sanders arrived, and the noise was deafening. He started by acknowledging the people who could not make it into the stadium due to the large number of attendees, and thanked everyone for making the effort to come. He remarked that he had won about 46% of the pledged delegates, and said that “we will continue to fight for every last vote from now until the Democratic convention.”

He gave his usual stump speech: workers deserve a living wage; college students are in ludicrous amounts of debt and should be given free education; illegal immigrants should be treated with compassion and not be exploited. He called the excessive and unjust incarceration of African-American men “an international embarrassment,” promising to end it once he is president. Climate change was also given great emphasis. “Our goal and our agenda is the future of America,” said Sanders.

On equal pay for both genders: “I know every man here will stand with the women to fight for fair wages.”

Sanders’ main emphasis was on basic domestic issues: income inequality, racism, social security, corrupt politics, etc. There was no mention of ISIS, Israel and the Gaza strip, or of the United States’ relationship with China.

Sanders gave some data: he had the support of 7% of the current super-delegates – about 39 of them. Hillary had 93% of the super-delegates, which amounted to about 500 of them, and she had obtained their support before the presidential race had even started. The crowd booed angrily, and cheered when Sanders said it was dumb and unfair to not give independent voters a say in the primaries’ outcome.

I had entered the gym tired, and somewhat indifferent, but found myself getting rather enthusiastic. Sanders is persistently energetic for his age, and drives home his points with emotion; it’s hard to not be convinced by his sincerity. Sanders asked questions to individual people in the crowd, and called attention to the answers they gave. He made jokes while joking about his “bad sense of humor.” I value skepticism dearly, but I must admit that Sanders’ attitude, as well as nearly all the issues he brought up, resonated with me.

The candidate ended his speech on an optimistic note, pointing out that his campaign began as a small endeavor, but quickly attracted a massive following of people from all over the country. “I love all of you, and I love your energy,” said Sanders. “The only way real change takes place is when millions of people come together.”

He gave his final thanks and stepped down into the crowd to shake hands. I wanted to stay, and possibly approach the senator, but the crowd was too dense.

According to Real Clear Politics (as of May 25th), Sanders has won 1,448 pledged delegates and 42 super-delegates; Clinton has won 1750 delegates and 537 super-delegates. There are 2,382 delegates left to win. The popular vote count marks Clinton at 12,989,134 and Sanders at 9,957,889.

Raquel Gastelum is a graduate of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM

The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times. 

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