It has been about 80 days since Sen. Bernie Sanders parachuted into Idaho, fired up a crowd of thousands at Boise State University and then administered a political smack down to opponent Hillary Clinton in the Democratic caucus on March 22.
The level of passion from Sanders supporters was as omnipresent as the signs of spring. Young and old Idaho progressives were drawn to the aura of Sanders’ populist, inclusive and everyman policies the way bees and hummingbirds are attracted to blooms.
For many, Sanders presented the hope and change President Barack Obama described but, for them, never delivered. Starting out as a long-shot alternative to Clinton, his combination of tenacity, policy and blunt charm caught on nationwide. By March ubiquitous signs of “The Bern” in Boise rivaled the unfurling of Bronco flags on a game day.
But the news early this month, and confirmed Tuesday, that Clinton had secured the Democratic nomination for president could signal the beginning of the end and dampen the hopes of legions of Sanders’ local supporters.
I met a number of them at the March caucus, and most everyone I spoke to pledged to Sanders “no matter what.” So, now what?
Unless Sanders is offered the VP slot (not so likely), my caucus friends impressed upon me that there is no way they could ever bring themselves to vote for Clinton. We will see.
I recall a young brother and sister — new Bernie fans at the time who had never before been politically engaged — vowing it would be Bernie or, as an 18-year-old said at the time, “It would crush my heart a little bit.”
Only time will tell what path all the Idaho Sanders supporters will take — except in the case of people such as Michael and Angeline Blain, Boise North Enders unshaken by the events of this week. The Bernie Sanders political sign remains planted in their front yard as firmly as Sanders’ messages of inclusiveness and economic equality are rooted in their psyches.
They retain their scathing assessment of Clinton and the rigged “establishment” manner in which the former secretary of state won, more or less silencing the voices of Sanders and followers beneath the din of the “Democratic machine.”
Michael is a BSU sociology professor and Angeline, an Irish immigrant, has occasionally taught in adjunct roles. Even with the prospect of Donald Trump ending up in the White House, they would prefer to write in the name of Sanders rather than spend their votes on Clinton.
“I am burning for Bernie Sanders, in that I love his passion,” Angeline said Wednesday morning after I saw their “Bernie 2016” sign and then knocked on their door. “I love his passion and I can identify with it for making the United States an egalitarian society, not one for the One Percenters. The Democratic and Republican parties represent the One Percenters in the United States. They are not interested in liberty and justice for all. ...
“Bernie is a different voice, a revolutionary — and there is nothing wrong with that word. It just means we want change now.”
She said she is happy Sanders made it clear to America’s youth that there is a progressive party that cares about them, education, the environment and medical insurance for everybody. She loved the awakening of the younger generation responding to Sanders’ message.
“I’m going with Bernie all the way because that is the right thing to do. Hillary and Trump are two New Yorkers, two millionaires — you know how they got their money,” she said.
In all likelihood Sanders will join the other historical footnotes of this wild and crazy election season — perhaps with one difference. Whether you agree with him or not, there was nothing vague about the principles he stood for from day one, though it was easy to question how he would make it happen.
Like a classic, iconic and identifiable voice on the radio, Sanders’ cadence could be heard above all of the others.
It was huge.