Originally published in The Press Democrat.com on May 18, 2016 By Guy Kovner
Decrying the “rigged economy,” the war on drugs and student loan debt, and making light of his own unruly white hair, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delighted a crowd of thousands Wednesday evening at a waterfront park in Vallejo.
Fresh from successes in the Oregon and Kentucky primary elections, the Vermont senator with socialist/populist inclinations — like a tax on Wall Street speculation to refinance student debt and pay for free college tuition — punched the air with his right arm as he recited his campaign talking points.
The crowd ate it up.
When Sanders noted that he had received almost 8 million individual campaign donations, but leaving the average amount unspoken, the crowd called out “$27.”
Sounding slightly hoarse at his second Bay Area rally of the day following an appearance in San Jose, Sanders fired barbs at Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.
Noting the billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson was supporting Trump, another billionaire, Sanders said,
“That’s not democracy. That is oligarchy, and we do not accept that.”
He chastised Clinton for raising millions of dollars from special interests and earning $225,000 per speech on Wall Street.
With the sun sinking low behind the stage as he spoke, Sanders noted that he has won more than 9 million votes and almost 46 percent of the pledged delegates in primary elections, calling them “the real delegates who are voted on by the people,” as opposed to super-delegates.
Sanders acknowledged he faces an “uphill fight” to win more pledged delegates, including the 475 at stake in California’s June 7 election.
Arielle Rubin of Sebastopol said she had just arrived home from Ithaca College in New York when her parents asked if she would like to attend the Sanders rally.
“I said, ‘of course,’ ” Rubin said. “I think he’s a really inspirational leader.”
Sanders is popular on the liberal college campus, she said. “It’s really important everybody of my generation gets out and votes.”
Her mother, Laurie Rubin, said Sanders was the “first person who speaks to my ideals” to get this far in a presidential election.
“He sees climate change as one of the major threats to our planet,” she said.
Phil Brown, her husband and Arielle’s stepfather, said Sanders was the first candidate he had ever supported with a campaign donation.
Chris Vardijan of Vallejo said he was voting for Sanders “because I’m tired of the puppet show, tired of the games Democrats and Republicans play pretending to be enemies until their corporate bosses need something passed. Then it gets passed really easily.”
Vardijan said he had registered as a Democrat just to vote for Sanders in the primary. He registered as a Republican in 2012 to vote for Ron Paul, explaining that the two “seem like they’re polar opposites but they’re both honest men.”
Peter Phwan of San Francisco said Sanders’ campaign “isn’t about winning or losing. This is about getting his ideas out to the country.”
Noting the numerous minorities in the crowd, Phwan, an ethnic Chinese man from Indonesia, said they had been insulted by Trump.
“I’m a proud American and I’m for Bernie,” said Phwan, a 20-year U.S. resident.
Three teenagers from Vacaville said they hopped in a car and headed for the rally as soon as the school day was out at Vanden High School in Fairfield.
Allison Mendez, 17, said she was impressed that Sanders made his way to Vallejo, a place not often found on the presidential campaign trail.
“I just want to see what Bernie is like,” said her friend Kamra Jackson, 18. Asked what she thinks of Clinton, Jackson said, “I feel like Hillary doesn’t really care about black people and I think Bernie is a genuine human being.”
Before Sanders started speaking, an airplane flew over the park towing a banner that read, “Bernie’s done. Vote Trump.”
That prompted the evening’s only loud boos.
Sanders is a long shot to win his party’s nomination. Clinton had corralled 2,291 delegates, compared to 1,528 for Sanders, according to the news website Politico on Wednesday.
Sanders would have to capture 80 percent of the remaining 946 delegates, including the 475 pledged delegates at stake in California’s primary. Clinton would need just one-fifth of California’s delegates to reach the 2,383-delegate count needed for the nomination.
California Democrats award pledged delegates proportionately based upon the primary vote.