Election 2016

Bernie Sanders Holds Boston's Largest Democratic Primary Rally Ever

The event made history, topping the size of Boston's biggest Obama rally.

On Saturday evening, Bernie Sanders finally took his campaign to Boston, having canceled an earlier appearance there because they couldn't find a space large enough at an affordable price. The Boston stop was the second stop of the day, following a rally of 6,000 in Springfield, Mass.

The Boston Globe noted that the rally in their city made history – topping the size of a 10,000-person rally Barack Obama held during the 2008 Democratic primary. 

Sanders was introduced by several speakers, including both nursing students and a representative of National Nurses United, the large nursing union. Bill McKibben, one of the nation's most prominent climate activists, took the podium before the Senator and praised his opposition to the Keystone pipeline, a project Sanders opposed first in 2011. 

We have raised substantial sums of money because 650,000 Americans made contributions averaging 30 dollars a piece,” said Sanders to a crowd of around 25,000 both inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and more watching the event on screens outside who were unable to get in. The fundraising numbers have given renewed credibility to his campaign, with the New York Times noting that “Mr. Sanders was initially dismissed by political insiders as a fringe candidate running only to push Hillary Rodham Clinton to the left. But he has now demonstrated that he has the resources and the supporters, whom he has only begun to tap financially, to compete for the Democratic presidential nomination.” Indeed, the $26 million he raised placed him right behind Hillary Clinton's own $28 million haul (as of this writing Clinton did not release number of donors or the average donation). 

It's worth pointing out that the crowd size Sanders generated tops where Obama was at this point in the campaign not only in Boston, but nationally. The Obama campaign went to a city more than 10 times as large, New York, and spoke to 24,000 around this time in 2007. 

A new addition to Sanders's stump speech was a section on guns. “Guns should not be in the hands of those who should not have them,” he said, vowing to strengthen the instant background check system and put restrictions on semi-automatic weapons. Additionally, he touched on improving the mental health care system, or lack thereof in America, noting that his office receives calls all the time from distraught family members of those with mental health problems who cannot find treatment.

support Bernie because of what he did for Burlington as mayor in the 1980s. The city was half-dead from deindustrialization, and many of his policies, such as reworking the watrefront on lake Champlain, helped it become one of the best cities in America. I visited last year and loved it,” said one supporter, Desmond Molloy. “Cities have long been engines of change and opportunity for our country, but many smaller metropolitan areas are currently struggling, especially in my home state of Maine. I hope he can take his Burlington experience and apply it at a national level.”

Another supporter, Chris Johnson, cited his remarks against the drug war. “Cannabis saved my life from a debilitating spine degeneration condition that caused me to have six surgeries and become severely addicted to narcotic painkillers and alcohol almost dying many times,” he said.

The themes highlighted by Sanders's rally in Boston and attendees gravitated towards hope: hope for an America with a rebuilt middle class, stopping destructive climate change, reforming the criminal justice system, and ending war. 

A thousand miles to the southwest, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump was hosting a rally in Franklin, Tennessee that represented something else.

He referred to Syrian refugees as a “Trojan horse” for terrorists to infiltrate the United States, while saying we should send the paltry number we have taken back. He turned to dark humor, saying that Syria has “plenty of land...not a lot of people investing in Syria right now,” to cheers and laughter from a crowd that was unaware or immune to the fact that over 200,000 Syrians have lost their lives to be the brunt of Trump's jokes. Rather than embrace any form of policy reforms following the Oregon massacre, Trump simply pointed to the benefits of gun ownership, saying he owns a gun himself and anyone who “attacks me, oh they're gonna get shot.” He said “if you have a couple of teachers with guns in that room you would've been a hell of a lot better off,” unveiling a vision of a world of high-stakes shoot outs replacing campus security and the police.

Trump and Sanders represent dueling poles of the American political spectrum. Both are challenges to the political establishment, with one representing fear while the other represents hope.

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Environment
Food
Media
World