The Bernie Sanders Campaign: Not a Cult of Personality

At the giant rally in Sacramento on May 9th where I joined 21,000 other people to hear Bernie Sanders speak it was clear that it's his ideas and his willingness to speak truth to power that are driving this movement.

The Bernie Sanders phenomenon is not a "cult of personality" where this bespectacled 74-year-old Jewish man from Brooklyn is swaying enormous crowds by dint of his charisma and eloquence.

It's what Bernie is saying that cuts to the heart of America's hypocrisies and injustices and his policies to deal with them that are driving the enthusiasm.

The Bernie Sanders campaign is the only thing going in 2016 that's giving oxygen to American democracy currently drowning in an ocean of corporate money.

The Establishments of both political parties, along with the corporate media, would rather gloss over and obscure just about every single issue that Bernie hammers away at in his stump speech.

In 2008, even with all the justifiable excitement that surrounded the candidacy of Barack Obama we were still well aware that Wall Street and big donors were pouring cash into his campaign coffers.

Until Bernie Sanders no presidential candidate, especially since the Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates of corporate cash to an already corrupt election system, has anyone attempted to by-pass the millionaire and billionaire donor class and fund a campaign exclusively from small donations.

The biggest applause lines at the Sacramento rally came when Bernie denounced the corruption of big money in our politics, promised to overturn Citizens United, and pointed out that his campaign has raised all of its money from over seven million individual donors averaging about $27 a pop.

That's new and exciting. This unlikely Senator from Vermont stepped up to take on the corporate oligarchy that has seized the levers of power in America.

The rally wasn't just a feel-good shake-your-fist gathering. Bernie volunteers registered thousands of voters, many of them 18-year-old new voters. They also used social media and linked up everybody for future mobilizing via text messaging.

A local labor leader and school board member warmed up the rally speaking about the importance of getting out the vote for California's June 7th primary. Even the musicians who performed reminded the crowd that all of the down ballot races and initiatives that supported progressive causes needed their votes too.

Danny Glover, who introduced Bernie, also hammered away at the theme of the event: the necessity of voting and staying active. This is a message that the young people who are coming out to support Bernie in astonishing numbers need to hear.

Bernie has won the hearts and minds of younger voters who played a pivotal role in electing Obama in 2008 and re-electing him in 2012. He holds sway over a bloc of voters that the Democratic Party will need in November. That alone should give him some real power at the Democratic National Convention this July in Philadelphia.

The Sanders campaign has successfully fused the social media and grassroots activism of Occupy Wall Street with the Democratic primary elections.

When Bernie promised to break up the too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks and get the money out our politics through public financing he received a massive yelp of approval from the overflow crowd at Bonney Field.

Everybody there understood that we've lost our democracy. And Bernie is trying to help us find it again.