Bernie Sanders gets a show of support in Buffalo
Local supporters of Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders took to the streets of Buffalo’s Elmwood Village on Saturday afternoon. Close to 400 people of all ages are estimated to have shown up to hoist signs, hear local campaign leaders, and have their own voices heard.
Among them was UB student Tamera Knight, who helped organize the rally for the group “Buffalo for Bernie Sanders.” Knight said she’s backing the Vermont-based politician because he represents the struggles that she and her family have been through.
“I never grew up with healthcare. I didn’t have healthcare until I was 20 years old,” said Knight. “I have $20,000 worth of debt and it’s taken me six years to get through my degree because I’ve had to constantly work throughout it. I’m self-supporting. There’s plenty of reasons. It goes on and on and on.”
Knight also explained that Sanders’ character and background appeal to her and offer something she can relate to.
“I find him to be honest,” said Knight.” I’ve spent time in Vermont. The people in Vermont love him. The co-ops there are wonderful. The people know each-other, they do business with each other. They’re just wonderful people and I think Bernie’s doing the best job. I also grew up in Portland, Oregon, so it’s kind of a familiar political scene to me.”
Sanders currently faces the challenge of battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party nomination. Many New Yorkers may have more familiarity with Clinton, who served as the state’s U.S. Senator from 2001 to 2009. Brian Nowak, another organizer with “Buffalo for Bernie Sanders,” said Clinton can ride on the voting patterns of the past several decades when people voted on party labels, not on political issues.
“Somebody like Clinton can win on name recognition. As thoughtful as she is and how careful – careful is the wrong word – how thoughtful she is about policy positions, she’s somebody that can gain that support because she structures her policy to appeal to the widest range of current voters,” said Nowak.
Nowak said Sanders faces difficulty in getting press coverage, especially on the national level. On local levels, another challenge is sincerely engaging both poor and minority voters – an issue that was personified by the nearly all-white crowd at the rally in Buffalo.
“If you look at polling in Iowa, in New Hampshire, Bernie’s even pulling ahead. If you look in South Carolina, Nevada, he’s building that support in minority communities. But the thing is, you have to do that genuinely. You can’t just send people in to say, ‘We’re here to save you.’ That’s been tried before. It’s not going to work. It’s got to be something that’s organic. The organizers, the people in those communities wanting to get involved,” said Nowak. “I would love to see people that are unemployed, the poor, the working poor, people that we’re not comfortable talking about in the press to come out and to start using the political process to their advantage.”
Nowak pointed out that Sanders is gaining support from nationally recognized figures in the minority community, including Dr. Cornell West, rapper Killer Mike, and Ohio Senator Nina Turner.
Nowak said for himself, one of Sanders’ policies that resonates with him is something that’s not commonly mentioned.
“He’s a supporter of worker cooperatives. It’s something that he developed in Vermont,” said Nowak.
At the rally, supporters carried signs and discussed other issues that were important to Nowak, including Medicare and healthcare improvements, college tuition, raising the minimum wage, and combatting climate change.
“These aren’t just liberal values or Democrat values,” said Nowak. “They’re values that spread across the political spectrum.”
Nowak said people may disagree about how to solve such problems, but everyone agrees that they are problems. He said Sanders is starting to build a coalition including Independents and Republicans that are leaving their parties to join his movement.
Nowak believes people need to get involved and stay involved in candidates’ campaigns, especially in the wake of a generation of people who he believes became cynical about the political process.
Mike Desmond contributed to this story.