PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Bernie Sanders may not have filled the home stadium of the Portland Trailblazers on Friday, but the crowd was young, enthusiastic and studded with local celebrities.
The top ring of sections at the Moda Center sat empty during Sanders’ hour-long speech, a contrast to the completely packed venue at Sanders’ August rally in Portland. But the estimated 11,500-person crowd skewed young, and included the owner of local icon Voodoo Doughnut and musicians from the bands Drive-By Truckers and The Thermals.
“This makes me think that Portland really is ready for a political revolution,” Sanders said when he took the stage.
Sanders spoke for an hour, promising act on political problems he said he had heard described by women, African-Americans, immigrants, gay and transgender people, veterans and minimum-wage workers.
He slammed Donald Trump, saying there was no way Trump would be elected.
“The American people will not vote for a candidate that insults Mexicans and Latinos,” Sanders said. “The American people understand that we are fighting ISIS, a terrorist organization, not Islam, a religion. And the American people will not vote for a candidate who insults women every day, who insults veterans and who insults African-Americans.”
Sanders saved some of his swipes for Hillary Clinton, whom he criticized for taking tens of millions from Super PACs. Super PACs and other groups outside Clinton’s campaign have spent $62 million supporting her, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Sanders has so far refused Super PAC money. The vast majority of contributions to his campaign are small, with the average amount being $27.
“The sad truth is, elections are expensive,” Sanders said. “We have to decide: will we establish a Super PAC and beg Wall Street and corporate America for money?”
“No!” the crowd yelled.
“We agree with you,” he said. “This campaign does not have a Super PAC, does not want a Super PAC, and does not need a Super PAC.”
A crowd of people mostly in their 20s and 30s milled about, including local celebrities like the man who slings Portland’s most iconic doughnuts.
Voodoo Doughnuts owner Tres Shannon said fried dough may appeal to people of all political persuasions, but there’s only one candidate for him.
Shannon brought dozens of Bernie-inspired doughnuts for Sanders and his team to eat backstage.
“Doughnuts are kind of for everybody,” Shannon told Courthouse News at the event. “Even people who like Donald Trump like doughnuts, I’m afraid. Me personally, though, taking doughnuts out of the equation – this is my guy.”
Kathy Foster, bassist for Portland punk band The Thermals, said she’s a big Sanders fan.
“I love all his ideas,” Foster said in an interview at the rally. “He sounds too good to be true, almost.”
Foster and her band played a song to open the rally, which she called “moving and inspiring.”
She told Courthouse News that the nation needs the changes Sanders talks about making.
“Hopefully he gets elected and we can change this country,” Sanders said. “We need free health care, free education, banks need to be held accountable, all the equality stuff he talks about like sexual orientation and equality for all races and genders. I love everything he’s talking about.”
Patterson Hood, Portland resident and frontman for Drive-By Truckers, told Courthouse News that Sanders’ rumpled style made him trust the candidate.
Hood and his wife Rebecca mingled with the crowd before Sanders took the stage.
“I like his whole message,” Hood said. “The lack of the normal political bullshit. If he was going to bullshit, there would probably be other tactics he would take that would seem to be more effective. The fact that he’s not exactly a slick talker. He’s about as different from other politicians as you can get.”
As an Obama supporter, Hood said he kept his expectations of Obama’s presidency realistic. And he said that’s how he looks at a potential Sanders presidency.
“Obama inherited a mess,” Hood said. “I was hoping he could just right the ship and stop the bleeding and give us something we can build on. And he’s done that. A lot of people were thinking he would kind of be this savior but it doesn’t really work that way.”
Hood said Sanders might have an uphill battle trying to accomplish his idealistic goals, but that the grassroots movement he had built as a candidate would support his efforts as president.
“It’s going to be hard,” Hood said. “But I don’t have unrealistic expectations about what he can do either. But he really stands for something and with enough public support behind him, he can move forward. It’s just like the times when Obama’s been able to actually get something done – when he’s been able to mobilize the populace behind him to the point where the other powers kind of back down and let it be a little bit.”
Halfway through Sanders’ speech, a sparrow flitted through the crowd and landed onstage. The giggles of the crowd stopped him. He turned, trying to figure out what people were laughing about.
Just when Sanders saw it, the sparrow winged over the crowd again, this time landing on his podium. People cheered as the tiny bird eyed the candidate, cocking its head from one side to the other as it seemed to consider his qualities.
The bird flew off and Sanders got poetic.
“I know it doesn’t look like it, but that little bird is really a dove asking us for world peace,” Sanders said.
Thousands of hands shot up, making a sea of peace signs.
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