If last week’s Bernie Sanders’ rally at a Silicon Valley county fairground felt more like Burning Man or Coachella, the mood at Wednesday’s Hillary Clinton rally in downtown San Jose was more like that of a Junior League convention: Moms, daughters, grandmothers in Birkenstocks, female techies, and the odd middle-aged dad waited inside Parkside Hall to hear the Democratic presidential front-runner ask them to get the vote out.
Women's issues took front seat right from the get-go. But one thing was very clear, even if Clinton wins more delegates in the California primary June 7, Sanders definitely wins the popularity contest, at least when it comes to millennials in the Bay Area.
Young people were not completely absent from the Clinton rally — at least one 20-something said she was there to make up her mind between Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
“I like how Bernie is like authentic, I like how he like came in, and disrupted everything, but I like her a lot too,” said Ailish, a shy young girl who was visiting from Santa Cruz.
Unlike the Sanders rally, nobody yelled themselves hoarse for Clinton. But her supporters were very articulate about why they wanted her to be president.
“She’s been fighting for great causes for women and children and for peace for her whole career … As a lawyer, as a mother, as a concerned citizen, Hillary’s done it all,” said a supporter who called herself Dorothy. “She’s been a senator, a secretary of state …I think any girl would want to have her as a role model.”
“America needs a mom, we sure don’t want Trump,” said a man who was selling Clinton 2016 buttons outside the event hall.
The majority of the women who showed up Thursday underlined her experience as Secretary of State, her progressive history and her efforts to improve the lives of women and children. “And in addition we get Bill Clinton,” said Sharon Solomon. “Clinton was a great president, she’ll be a great president.”
Almost nobody wanted to talk about her emails. “It’s not a big deal to me,” said Lisa Rostao from Santa Cruz. “I understand how technology works, and it doesn’t bother me."
At least one young person who is 22 said that he felt “it was wrong for her to have her own private server.”
“I don’t think it’s enough to disqualify her from being president,” he said. “I think this race is still pretty solid.”
As for why more millennials like Sanders as opposed to Clinton, he explained, “I think there’s definitely a deficit, she hasn’t been able to excite younger people in a way that Bernie Sanders has been able to."
Some long-term supporters recycled their Clinton 2008 swag, even pointing it out to her as they posed for selfies at the end of her speech, something Clinton granted innumerable times with a smiling face.
Adrienne Grey, president of the Board of Trustees of the West Valley-Mission Community College District, who has been a Clinton supporter since her time at the White House, called her “brilliant.”
“She is back for a second round, and we’ll make her president,” Grey said. “Her election will be a sea change for this nation. It will send a message to every young girl and woman that there’s no limits to what they can do.”
The key words that got the crowd excited: Reproductive rights, equal pay and immigration.
“She’s not all talk like some other people we know,” said Carol Marmorek from San Jose. “She’s a real doer. She knows how to really get things done. … She’s a very intelligent person, she has real policy, real experience. “
“And that’s what we need – It’s too dangerous right now to not have a real experienced person leading us,” said Carol Kuiper from Los Altos. “We support her 100 percent. So get out the vote.”
Both women said they had bonded at the rally over their common admiration for Hillary.
There was a moment when the cloud started getting restless, as they waited for Clinton for over an hour.
“She better speak fast ‘cos I'm starving,” one young woman said.
“You're breaking the momentum Hillary,” another person yelled.
Some were a little angry that she was giving an interview on CNN while they waited for her inside.
“We’re going to be hot and mad but we won't change our vote,” someone quipped with typical Bay Area snark.
All frustrations melted away when Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom took the stage with Clinton.
“Newsom 2024!” someone in the crowd yelled.
"We've someone here who does not believe in banning all Muslims from the U.S., who does not believe in building walls but in building bridges,” Newsom said to loud cheers from the crowd.
"The other guy wants to build a great wall, with Hillary Clinton we will build a great country." San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.
Clinton charged up the atmosphere with these words: "It's so great to be here — a city of the future:"
A few minutes into her speech, Clinton was interrupted by a heckler in a white t-shirt , who kept calling her a “mass murderer,” but she stayed calm and composed while talking about the gender gap.
A group of Hillary supporters surrounded him, trying to convince him to leave the rally peacefully. At first he didn’t budge, and continued to say, “The blood of Iraq is in your hands, the blood of Hondurans is in your hands, the blood of Haitians is in your hands, shame on you!”
Eventually, a Clinton staff member came and talked to him, after which he voluntarily walked away to sighs of relief from the crowd.