Around 200 Sanders supporters marched in the populated streets of Hoboken, NJ, on Sunday, May 15, 2016. Shortly a month prior to the state’s Primary election on June 7, New Jerseyans launched a rally in support of Bernie Sanders. Sanders, who announced his intention of carrying out his campaign all the way to the Philly DNC in July, is seeking to win as many remaining primary states as possible in order to use that momentum to motion for a challenge at the DNC. According to CNN, Sanders needs to win 68 percent of the remaining elected delegates. Therefore California and New Jersey, the two largest remaining states, are essential for his challenge.
This event was a continuation of the national protests for Bernie Sanders. Rallies and marches have never been held in support of a presidential candidate in any preceding American election. Yet, hundreds of such protests have been conducted for Sanders this year alone. Sanders supporters launched the first national day of protests for an American candidate on January 23/30, when protests took place in 35 cities, with very little media coverage. There was also little media coverage of the second national day of protests on February 27, when up to 70 cities participated in Bernie marches. In New Jersey, the first Bernie rally was held in Asbury Park on March 5, and the second one was in Red Bank on April 2. The Hoboken rally was the third protest in NJ for Sanders. Two more Sanders protests were organized afterward: one in Montclair on May 21, and the other in Jersey City on May 28.
The Bernie crowd was diverse in age, geography, and gender. People gathered around 12:30 at Pier A Park, and marched on the sidewalk for about a mile down the main street, until we reached Max Well’s Tavern. Bernie was seen everywhere. Bernie buttons and shirts were for sale. There seemed to have been an infinite amount of blue Bernie signs, which nearly every person carried. The atmosphere was more like a party than a protest. It was completely nonviolent and peaceful. We chanted numerous slogans, including “New Jersey wants Bernie,” “We are the 99 percent,” and “Black Lives Matter.” The only disturbance came from a single Trump supporter, who mindlessly repeated ‘Trump’ over and over, until he was out-chanted by Bernie supporters.
After rallying outside Maxwell’s Tavern, we went inside and listened to numerous speakers on stage. Speakers included event organizer Marc Adamo of the Teamsters Union, progressive Democratic Party candidate in the 3rd Congressional District Jim Keady, progressive Democratic candidate in the 8th Congressional District Eloy J. Delgado, and many more. Afterward people canvassed for Bernie in the streets.
The “Grassroots March/Rally for Bernie” name was befitting because grassroots activists of all kinds congregated at the event. Black Lives Matter, 15 Now, money out of politics, environmentalists, and cannabis legalization activists gathered there. The Bernie “Bus for Progress” arrived with registration forms and pamphlets of information for the political revolution. I attended the rally representing the cannabis movement under the East Coast Cannabis Coalition. I was quoted in my black-and-white prison costume in a NJ.com article on May 15, saying I supported Sanders as the best politician on cannabis legalization, and that I was arrested with over 1,000 persons in D.C. the month before for Democracy Spring, which aimed to get big money out of politics. The article was shared that same day by the progressive political website, “Raw Story”. NJ News 12 also reported on the rally. Christina Davenport, a “Bernie or Bust” supporter, summed up how most Millennials feel: “That’s because if he hadn’t gotten into the race, I probably wouldn’t have voted at all.” The rally was also covered by “Sapy News”, OOYUZ Beta, “Uncle Sam” blog, Algo.com, “Global Paradigm Shift”, “Top News Hour”, A1.AM, “Tech News Coverage”, Jersey Tribune, Hoboken Life, the Hoboken Patch and Hoboken Lifestyle Magazine, and was re-tweeted by the Jersey Journal.
Pictures of the rally appeared in NJ.com on May 16, along with an article about the fear of Sanders dividing the Democratic Party by remaining the in the race. NJ.com took a poll with the headline as the question: “Should Bernie Sanders drop out of the presidential race?” Sanders supporters are used to such biased polls by now, but luckily young Berners typically overfill the polls. By May 20 the poll showed that 763 persons, or 16.57 percent, voted yes to Bernie dropping out; but 3,842 persons, or 83.43 percent, voted no. Nevertheless, the Democratic Party is using all of its power to convince people Bernie is ‘un-electable’, but as the people keep proving with their feet in the streets, Bernie is the only electable Democratic Party candidate.
In fact, on May 20, Debi Cleave of Woodstown wrote a letter to the editor to the South Jersey Times (NJ.com), disagreeing with the view that Sanders should drop out of the race for Democratic Party unity. Cleave wrote: “How about the view that Clinton’s campaign will cause Sanders to lose the election as the Democrats’ fall nominee? How about that it’s time for Clinton to step down — because the people want Sanders?” She explained why Bernie’s strategies were best: “Sanders’ policies get to the root of the problem, which is that the rich are controlling us. You can’t fix social issues without fixing the imbalance of power. Clinton offers a Band-Aid.” She concluded: “I’m tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. I’m not compromising my values because political insiders want to manipulate me into believing my candidate can’t win. I am voting for who is the best. And that’s Sanders.”
However, the Garden State polls are looking bad for Sanders. NJ has a semi-closed primary, which typically Sanders’ doesn’t do as well in, and this closed on May 17, meaning people not registered as Democrats by then can’t vote for him. NJ will be the first state to close its polls on June 7 at 8:00 P.M. But so far, Sanders has lost to Clinton in all 11 polls conducted in NJ. Two polls were conducted in May 2016 showing Clinton ahead. The Monmouth University poll (May 1-3) placed Clinton ahead by 28 percentage points (60-32%), and the Quinnipiac University poll (May 10-16) more promisingly put Clinton ahead by only 14 percent (54-40%). In the latter poll, six percent of Democrats were undecided and 15 percent said they could change their minds by the primary election, which means a surprise victory is possible for Sanders.
On the positive side, Sanders has dramatically cut down on the lead Clinton had over him since back in January 2015, when Clinton was ahead by 58 points (68-2%). In April 2015, Clinton was up by 51 points (63-3%), then she lost her 50 percent lead in June 2015, when she led by 48 points (63-15%). By the fall of 2015 Sanders began moving in on Clinton: the October poll had Clinton up by 30 points (49-19%), but then three November polls put her up by 33, 37 and 41 points. Yet the beginning of 2016 moved Sanders closer to Clinton again. In February 2016, Clinton’s lead was only by 23 points (55-32%), then up by only 9 points in April (51-42%), before the two May polls put Clinton up again by 28 and 14 points.
Sanders only has a few more weeks to catch up in NJ. It will be especially hard for him to catch up in NJ while his campaign desperately has to focus on a win in CA. Sanders campaign in the Garden State really began only a few weeks ago, when the Vermont candidate spoke at duel rallies in Piscataway (Rutgers U.) and Atlantic City on May 8-9. Sanders supporters eagerly await another Sanders presence in NJ.