On Saturday October 3rd Bernie Sanders hosted a Boston campaign rally of record-breaking proportions. He spoke to approximately 20,000 supporters inside the Boston Convention Center, with an additional 4,000 watching on projectors outside the venue. This makes Sanders’s rally the largest in Massachusetts history, breaking Obama’s previously held record of 10,000 attendees in 2008.
Recent polls show Sanders steadily increasing in popularity. RealClear Politics reports that Sanders is beating Clinton in early New Hampshire polls. This has left many Americans wondering how Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, is able to resonate so strongly with American voters. In particular, why is his campaign so successful in Boston? Sanders’ Boston rally highlighted the successful features of his grassroots movement that have made him a rising star in the Democratic race.
First, his campaign was able to raise substantial money without the use of Super PACs. Sanders proudly told the audience “let me be clear: I don’t have a Super PAC, I don’t want a Super PAC, and I don’t need a Super PAC.” This makes it all the more impressive that Sanders’ campaigned earned a third-quarter fundraising total of $26 million, with the average campaign contribution totaling just over $25. That puts Sanders just shy of Clinton’s $28 million raised.
Furthermore, Sanders’ financial agenda aims to benefit the vast majority of Americans by holding a fringe minority accountable. In his own words, “there is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.” Sanders’ agenda specifically targets Wall Street bankers. He took issue with the government’s decision to bail out Wall Street in 2008, arguing that “if a bank is too big to fail, it’s too big to exist.” Sanders made it clear that income inequality is a major issue of his campaign. He strongly advocates for the lower and middle class, arguing that no one working 40 hours a week deserves to be living in poverty. Furthermore, he argued for pay equality for women, saying that there is “no defensible reason” women should be making “78 cents on the dollar” that men earn. This last point was met with overwhelming applause by men and women in the audience.
Sanders did not directly attack the Clinton campaign, instead focusing on his “Republican colleagues.” For a progressive city like Boston, this was a very smart decision. He mocked Republican ideals of “family values,” which include the ideas that “women of this country should not have the right to control their own bodies” and that “our gay brothers and sisters should not be able to get married.” While some candidates like to dance around controversial issues like abortion and gay marriage, Sanders openly states his stances on both issues. His pro-choice and pro-marriage equality positions particularly resonated with the progressive audience, and he was very forthright in addressing them.
Finally, Sanders argued in equal parts for issues that affected every age demographic of his audience. He covered everything from social security to guaranteed paid medical and family leave for working-class Americans. His higher education plan was particularly pertinent for college-age attendees of his rally. Sanders supports a higher education plan that would provide free public university tuition for all college students. This is an important proposal to make in Boston where there are more colleges than any other city in America.
Bernie Sanders’ transparency on progressive issues related to income inequality and social justice disparities particularly resonated with Boston residents. His rally appealed to all demographics of Americans, as evidenced by his record-breaking turnout. Between early poll results in New Hampshire and a number of successful rallies, it seems clear that Sanders’ campaign is taking root in the Northeast. Only time will tell whether it’s enough to secure him the Democratic nomination.