SANTA CLARA, CA: Saratoga City Councilmember Rishi Kumar was enthusiastically playing up to the crowd, warming them up – if they weren’t hot already under the California sun – before Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took the stage.
Bernie mania was sweeping Bay Area and Silicon Valley as Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ last minute rally brought in 5,500+ residents on a scorching 90 degree day to the open air Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on May 18th last week. The freeways and roads were jammed as everyone seemingly converged upon the fairgrounds to be part of the Bernie Mania experience that had swept the whole country.
Bernie’s quest to touch 200,000 voters in California before the June 7th primary elections was on – demonstrated by his zeal in conducting rallies at San Francisco and Vallejo following the San Jose one – on the same day. Very impressive for 74-year-old Bernie demonstrating relentless energy in doing so.
The 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, US Senator and former Congressman from Vermont, elected as Mayor of Burlington Vermont at the age of 40, had begun with a fairly low key announcement on May 26, 2015. Back then New York Times had described the moment as, “Avoiding the fanfare that several Republicans have chosen so far when announcing their candidacies, Mr. Sanders issued a statement to supporters that laid out his goals for reducing income inequality, addressing climate change and scaling back the influence of money in politics”.
Very quickly Bernie’s populist and social democratic politics resonated with voters and Bernie surged in polls. On September 30, 2015, The New York Times reported that Sanders had raised US $26 million over the preceding three months, close behind Hillary Clinton’s $28 million. The Bernie Sanders campaign that had been easily discarded by media pundits was now a force to reckon and had become a huge force in the Presidential election.
During Wednesday’s rally Sanders with a voice almost hoarse, stayed on message with his stump speech, lamenting on how the wealthy have a huge say on America’s political and economic systems. He directed his focus upon the Republican nominee Donald Trump referencing how he led Trump in many national polls. “I know that there are many people who are concerned that Donald Trump may become president of the United States. That will not happen! More important, I believe the American people will reject the basic tenets of what Donald Trump stands for.
“The American people will not vote for a candidate for president who insults Mexicans and Latinos. A candidate who insults our Muslim brothers and sisters. A candidate who insults women, who insults veterans, who insults the African-American community.”
The anti-Trump message was greeted with thunderous applause and shouts of “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie”. Sanders in his speech also provided his support for California’s issue of legalizing cannabis for adult recreational use. “If I lived in California I would vote yes to legalize marijuana.”
Peace with Hillary
Even though Senator Sanders did not once mention Hillary’s name in his speech he seemed to extend peace with Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “At the end of the day, if we stand together as one people and not allow the Trumps of the world to divide us up … there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. That is what this campaign is about.”
Clinton does need to win over the students, progressives and blue-collar workers in order to win the elections – where Sanders is very strongly positioned with the demonstrated support.
So how is it looking for Bernie today? Secretary Hillary Clinton has 1768 pledged delegates, plus 525 super delegates to total 2,293. Senator Bernie Sanders lags behind her with 1,494 pledged delegates plus 39 super delegates to total 1533. Pending delegate votes total 939 that include a huge chunk from California 548 that includes 475 pledged delegates.
June 7th, as it turns out, will be a key moment in the Democratic Presidential race. No wonder Bernie has been spending time at various rallies in California with a huge sense of urgency. The latest poll, conducted by KABC/SurveyUSA at the end of April, showed Clinton with a 19-point lead over Sanders. An average of the polls shows Clinton up by about 10 percentage points. Mathematically, Sanders’ chances are diminishing but he vows to stay in the race and lobby for a more liberal platform at the party’s July convention in Philadelphia.
Super delegates’ votes aren’t pledged, meaning they can switch candidates at any time – and technically should not be taken into account for the final Delegates count until the votes are cast at the July National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.
Swept in the Bernie Mania was Saratoga Councilmember Rishi Kumar, the 2nd Indian American elected from the city of Saratoga in the heart of Silicon Valley – and one of very few elected leaders in an Indian American population of almost 244,000 in the nine counties of Bay area (2011 data) out of 528,000 Indian Americans in California.
Rishi also recently ran to be Bernie’s Pledged Delegate at the Philadelphia Convention in July and was elected to the #1 spot amongst the men running in the race – with a total of 59 men and women running to be a Bernie Pledged Delegate from Congressional District 18. That was a historic win for Rishi to emerge as the first Indian American delegate ever to get elected from this district. Rishi was surprised to receive a call and be invited on stage with Senator Sanders to introduce him to the San Jose supporters at the rally, perhaps the first Indian American national delegate ever to be on stage with a Presidential Candidate.
Rishi’s enthusiastic speech full of fervor claimed Senator Sanders as belonging to all of “us”. “This is Senator Sanders turf, we love him here! Just walk anywhere in Silicon Valley, in Santa Cruz, in San Francisco, in Oakland – this is Bernie country and we are proud to claim him as one of our own”.
Rishi’s speech touched upon two aspects of Bernie’s support: Support from the Silicon Valley hi-tech community and also from the ethnic diversity of Silicon Valley from various age groups. Many a times, he engaged with the crowd asking for their response to his questions and there were many resounding applauses to his energetic, enthusiastic and engaging speech. The video of his speech on Facebook and YouTube has over a thousand hits already.
There were many Indian Americans who were enthused with the Indian American visibility in the world of politics as a result of Rishi’s speech on a big stage – of a Presidential race.
Yogi Chugh, a political activist and the host of the popular political radio show “Voice of Indo Americans, Jai Ho! Powered by FOG” expressed the sentiments of many. “Seeing Rishi on the Bernie stage was a moment of great pride for me, given Rishi’s political success and decades of outstanding community work that has filled Indian Americans with a renewed sense of commitment in involving themselves in their local communities and in the political process. It is the coming of age of our community and our political engagement is being recognized finally. It was a befitting testament to me and the growing influence of our community that Rishi was with Senator Sanders on stage at this historic moment of Silicon Valley”
Manoj Goel, a long-time successful entrepreneur of Silicon Valley with involvement as an angel investor and advisory board of many startups was invited to a private group meeting with Senator Sanders, “Meeting Bernie in person was my highlight of this lifetime. He is genuine and delivered a very inspiring speech. My family, including my boys in Berkeley and Stanford are big fans of his platform”
Rajan Mehra, an IT Executive from Oracle was also part of this private group meeting with Senator Sanders. “I was very delighted to meet Bernie Sanders, he is very personable and connected very well with a diverse group present. He had the crowd energized with his impressive speech and clear articulation of his policies. He certainly is raising important issues about the future of the country’s direction.”
Cupertino resident Rocky Aroda a 45-year-old recent first time voter registrant as a result of Bernie mania, was a volunteer at this event who showed up at 7:30AM in the morning for a rally that had Bernie speaking at 1pm. Rocky was filled with hope and vigor after Bernie’s talk, ” A renewed optimism about the future of our country. Truly a sense of hope having witnessed a candidate who across decades of being a civil servant who left little on the table in terms of controversy. Yes, all this excitement with a growing concern that what if I was expecting too much. San Jose is our town, would he deliver? I will do my part and vote for one who votes for us. We have found in Senator Sanders a moral code, a neither bought nor sold set of stances, and a love towards humanity and doing what is right even if opposed to popular sentiments.”
Farbod Mogadham a Saratoga High School student who was at the rally found it to be a defining moment in his life . “It was an amazing experience finally seeing Senator Sanders in person and being in the presence of such a diverse crowd of people united around the progressive agenda. Attending the rally really made me feel like part of something greater than just a campaign – a movement.”
The poll numbers may not pose a picture for Senator Sanders to win the party nomination, but the mood at Wednesday’s rally was very upbeat as supporters from every nook and corner of the Bay Area huddled under the blazing sun to hear their fearless leader, cheering his every word, bearing buttons and T-shirts that displayed their fervor for Bernie and the ideals he stood by. Many in the crowd had never thought much about politics until they first saw his “tweet sized” campaign video. And they were hooked! They had descended upon the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds to be part of history.
Bernie has definitely redefined the campaign messaging for America and planted seeds of political engagement in many, many Bay Area residents forever, a defining moment in the history of Bay Area for sure.
India Post News Service