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Bernie Sanders held the biggest rally of the primary so far over the weekend. AOC endorsed him. Michael Moore endorsed him. 25,000 plus people crowded into Queensbridge park. And yet somehow, the media barely noticed. Needless to say, when Elizabeth Warren got a big crowd at Washington Square Park, the media treatment was a little different.
For Warren, Politico published a lengthy piece titled “Why Warren’s Big Crowds are a Big Deal” Not entirely clear why hers are a big deal Bernie’s apparently are not.
Washington Post had a glowing report. “Warren, before huge NYC crowd, touts herself as an heir to female pioneers.” Contrast that to their much more tepidly headlined post about Sanders more sizeable rally: “‘I am back.’ Sanders tells supporters at NYC rally”
NBC News is already back to trashing Sanders today with this new piece: “Bernie Sanders Struggles to Rebound.” I mean seriously? He literally just had the biggest rally of the election cycle. What are you actually talking about?
New York Times really outdid themselves for Warren’s rally with a big story and a fawning podcast that went in deep on Warren’s “huge crowds” and of course selfie lines. But you know, a massive working class show of force with some of the biggest stars of the populist left isn’t nearly as interesting as say how many days the media was made to wait before they knew the full details of Bernie Sanders hospital stay.
If the press had decided to dig in, there was certainly a lot that was worthy of coverage at the rally. There was AOC’s endorsement of Bernie where she explained to all those who were confused about her support of an “old white man” how he had given her the courage to see her own worth and demand health care and education and a living wage for herself and her community. Of course there was Sander’s own speech where far different from the tepid civility politics that mostly serves as a means of protecting the powerful, he laid out a vision for a radical solidarity that calls on all of us to fight for the rights of our brothers and sisters. But what really caught my eye, and certainly should catch the media’s as well, was the speech of Bernie’s National Campaign Co-Chair Nina Turner.
First of all, Senator Turner may well be the most underrated and the most charismatic national political figure period. Watch her whole speech if you want to see what I mean. (It starts below right at 1:05:00.) But second of all, to my knowledge for the first time, Senator Turner laid out unapologetically the difference between Bernie and Warren. Jacobin published the whole thing in its entirety. In the video below, start at 1:09:41 to hear the difference between Senator Sanders and what Nina calls the “many copies.”
It was really something. In addition to making clear Warren is a copy of Sanders the original, Senator Turner references the fact that it was only after Warren decided not to run in 2016 that Sanders decided to shoulder the burden of offering a progressive alternative himself. She references the vote that Warren took in favor of Trump’s massive military budget. She also references Warren’s comments about Medicare for All being a “framework.” Senator Turner closes out her comparison by reminding the audience and the “mainstream and neoliberal side” that “Being similar is not being the same.”
Obviously the same people who want to pretend Warren and Bernie are the same except for their gender and age were mad about the contrast being drawn, but ultimately this is a contest with real stakes. If you want to win you’ve got to tell people what those stakes are.
Ultimately though, it was the crowd at Queensbridge that told the story as much as anything else. 16 year old Tasfiya Kashem explained her Sanders support to Gothamist (Gotta love that Gothamist covered the rally more effectively than any of the mainstream outlets): He uplifts working class people, people of color and women, minorities in general. I think a lot of people believe that since he’s a white man, it’s important to endorse other candidates like women candidates and candidates of color, but I think he’s still the only candidate who works for those people.”
Ishmael Orroyo, a 45 year old union mason tender told Gothamist: “They just raised my rent in the Bronx so I’m staying with my mom on the couch right now. The rich are sucking up every resource available. You’re getting a smaller and smaller piece of the pie, period. It’s just a fact… it’s Bernie or nobody.”
I guess Ishmael and Tasfiya see quite clearly that being similar is not being the same. The elite media may downplay the significance of the rally, but there’s no doubt this was the grand capstone of the most significant week of Bernie’s campaign and possibly his career. If Bernie wins, it will be the dramatic turning point that set the campaign on a new trajectory.