Bernie mania took over the Santa Clara County fairgrounds on Wednesday, as millennials, baby boomers, soccer moms, veterans, grandmothers and dads with strollers showed up to “Feel the Bern.”
Bare-chested teenage boys flaunted blue “Babe 4 Bern” pecs at the afternoon San Jose rally while young girls twirled their “Bernie 2016” bandanas in the air, prompting many to ask whether it was Burning Man or a Bernie Sanders rally.
Sanders received a rock star welcome from the crowd of roughly 3,000 to 4,000 people, many of whom had waited since 8 a.m. to see the Vermont senator. High school and college students made up the majority of the crowd, and throughout Sanders’ speech they could be spotted pumping their fists in the air, and yelling “F___ them” every time Sanders mentioned Donald Trump, the Washington establishment or Wall Street.
“Honestly, the main thing is he’s very honest,” said Natasha Martinez from San Jose’s KIPP High School, who had gone hoarse from yelling all day. “You can tell from the way he speaks, he’s very passionate and very supportive of the things that are important to us. And there are millions of families that are like us.”
“He’s not just against big corporations and money, he’s genuinely for the people, and I love that,” said Greg Campuzano, from San Jose's Summit High School.
It was obvious that the young people in the crowd nothing short of worshipped the 74-year-old politician, speaking about him with the kind of adulation that’s usually missing from Hillary Clinton events.
“I’ve had a hard time explaining to my colleagues why you like Bernie Sanders so much,” said Cenk Uygur, host of “The Young Turks,” on YouTube, who himself received an arousing welcome. “They tell me, ‘We don’t understand – he’s not a smooth politician, sometimes he doesn’t even comb his hair.’”
“But that’s why you like him,” Uygur said to applause and cheers, “Because he’s real.”
“We like him because he likes brown people,” a millennial yelled out from the crowd, and everyone burst into laughter, yelling, “Yeah.”
“Do you want a slick politician?” Uygur asked the crowd, “Do you want a politician the powerful are comfortable with?”
The answer from the crowd was a resounding “No.”
“Where is Bernie? I want Bernie,” screamed Arspreet Liddar as she waited with her friends on the sidelines for her hero.
Sanders himself answered the “why do millennials like Bernie Sanders so much?” question a little later.
"We're winning the vast majority of young people because we speak the truth,” he said to loud applause. “They are the future of our country and they want to help shape that future. They know the future of America is social justice, economic justice, racial justice and environmental justice.”
Sanders spoke frankly about getting rid of student debt, fighting for equal wages for women and jobs for everyone. As always, poverty and a “rigged economy” played a big part in his speech.
"I am sick and tired of seeing poverty all over this country, wherever I go," Sanders said to whoops and cheers from the crowd, many of whom described themselves as blue collar workers living in the shadow of Silicon Valley's wealth.
The presidential hopeful also decried tax breaks for billionares and pouring trillions of dollars into wars, and instead promised to funnel the resources into "[rebuilding] communities all over this country."
"We are going to create affordable housing so people do not use 50 percent or more of their incomes just to have a roof over their heads," Sanders said in a region where exorbitant living costs are forcing people out of their homes.
Another Sanders comment that got a lot of play from the crowd: “If I lived in California I would vote to legalize marijuana.”
And then, the loudest roar of all: "I know that a lot of people are worried that Donald Trump will become president … that will not happen."
Sanders spoke passionately about immigration reform, promising that he would use executive powers to pass immigration reform if he was elected president. He also promised to end deportation, saying “our job is to bring families together, not separate them.”
"With your help we are going to win here in California if we have high voter turnout," he told the crowd, reminding them that the most populous state in the nation has 475 delegates. All eyes are on California as the June 7 primary approaches, because Californians' vote could make a difference for the first time in decades.
Millennials showed off their Bernie Sander’s fashion, some even showed up in handmade Bernie 2016 t-shirts – others sported Bernie socks, ties, buttons, sunglasses and top hats.
“He supports everything I believe in,” said Karissa Rheuby. “He supports equal rights, raising the minimum wage … Everything I love. He’s been fighting for a really long time.”
And it wasn’t just millennials. Retired Peace Corp volunteer Taale Rosellini echoed the same kind of passion.
“I was inspired by JFK …Bernie Sanders represents the best America has ever produced since Kennedy and FDR. And he will transform the United States and bring peace to the planet. That’s what we need.”
Baby boomers Cher Bergen and Matthew Simpson called Sanders a straight shooter.
“We’ve been supporting Bernie since we first went door to door for him in 1982 when he was running for re-election in Burlington for mayor,” said Simpson, who is from Santa Cruz.
The crowd broke into a deafening roar as Sanders exited the stage, a sea of arms trying to grab on to a piece of him. “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie,” frenzied supporters kept chanting as Secret Service herded him to his car.
Still, Sanders took the time to shake hands, chat and take photos with his fans much to their delight.[[380046351, C]]