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By Nick BeJeaux
Though many still don’t know his name, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is undeniably making waves. His latest stop, right here in the Bayou State, was no exception.
In a state that consistently votes Republican, Sanders managed to draw a crowd of thousands—estimated around 4,500—to a rally in Kenner. Sanders was under no illusions that a self-proclaimed socialist running under the banner of the Democratic Party will have a tough time in a red state like Louisiana. But he said that was no reason to write it off.
“I think my colleagues in the Democratic Party have made a very, very serious mistake, and that is that they’ve written off half of America, including Louisiana,” he said. “I’m here to tell you that the time is now for us to fight in 50 states.”
Sanders tackled hot topics like income inequality and race relations before the crowd—some of whom came from as far as Mississippi—and their response was overwhelmingly positive.
What Louisianan Sanders Supporters Say
A polarizing figure amongst Democrats, Sanders managed to draw a diverse crowd of businessmen, veterans, students, attorneys, organizers, and more.
LuAnn Cumbest, a 58-year-old merchandiser from Morgan City, sees Sanders as a much needed change from candidates who run to serve their resumes.
“Bernie is the real deal,” she said. “He says what he means and means what he says. The fact that he is 73 is a real plus in my opinion because it shows he is not running for power or wealth. He’s running for the people and only the people.”
25-year-old Joshua Shows is a student at Delgado, a former National Guardsman, and a veteran of the Afghan War. He is also an admin for the Veterans for Bernie Sanders, a Facebook page that coordinates veteran support for Sanders’ campaign across the country.
“We try to spread the message about what Bernie does not only for veterans, but for people in general,” said Shows. “The main thing for vets is Bernie’s history with veterans. Just take a look at what’s going on in Congress right now—we’re getting stepped on. They take benefits that we need away from us to balance the budget, which I don’t dig, and I think that resonates with civilians as well. Bernie has always been there for us on that front, and that’s why I’m going to be boots on the ground for him wherever I can.”
Grassroots organizing has always had a place in political campaigns, but the Sanders campaign has been built around the concept. BR for Bernie—a Facebook page created to coordinate Sanders support in the Red Stick—is an example of said organizing and is hosting their first meeting tonight at 6 p.m. in the EBR Bluebonnet Regional Library.
“Just showing people who he is, sharing his message, and giving them some talking points for them to share with others would be beneficial, I think,” said Scott Nation, 25, creator and organizer for BR for Bernie, about tonight’s meeting. “Just giving them a word to spread will be beneficial I think.”
Nation said that more meetings will be scheduled in the future and anyone willing to contribute to the campaign is invited. More information about volunteering for the campaign in BR can be found at BR for Bernie or berniesanders.com
What the Polls Say
Lately Sanders has enjoyed a surge in popularity amongst Democrat voters, but is still in the shadow of liberal superstar Hillary Clinton, despite some slips on her part. On July 24, Gallup released their finding that Sanders’ popularity had doubled from 12 percent to 24 percent since March. However, Gallup also found that his unpopularity among Democrats has increased eight points to 20 percent in the same amount of time.
Compared to Clinton, who’s favourable/unfavorable ratio has dipped to -3, Bernie is actually netting positive in the polls by four points, putting him as Clinton’s biggest threat in the bid for the Democratic nomination. According to Gallup analyst Lydia Saad, Sanders’ biggest challenge is still visibility, despite a spike in recognition among democratic voters.
“While Sanders’ +29 net favorable rating among Democrats is considerably more positive than it is among the general population, still barely half of all Democrats know of him,” she wrote.