Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was hoping to energize his campaign with simultaneous appearances via video all over the country Wednesday evening.
It worked in Carrboro, at least, where about 200 supporters of the independent Vermont senator running for the Democratic nomination showed up at the Town Commons, and another 50 each at Oasis coffee shop and The Station bar.
Oasis owner Robert Roskind signed his shop up last week to take part in what Sanders described as “the largest digital organizing event” ever, but registration quickly reached the capacity of 50 and then overflowed by 50 more.
Carrboro Sanders supporter E.L. Flake suggested Roskind sign up to use the Town Commons for the overflow, which Roskind did on Friday.
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“We threw it together in just a few days,” Flake said.
The Sanders campaign said more than 100,000 signed up to take part nationwide Wednesday at 3,500 locations. Most were smaller gatherings held at private homes and bars.
Before Sanders’ roughly 15-minute address was broadcast at the Town Commons, a few local Democratic leaders spoke.
Randy Voller, former N.C. Democratic Party chairman and former mayor of Pittsboro, compared Sanders to President Franklin Roosevelt, saying: “He’s going to take the New Deal and give us a better deal. ... This is a man that can not only win, but restore the American Dream.”
Casey Mann, a former executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party and a candidate for Pittsboro Board of Commissioners, said she first met Sanders at an appearance in Raleigh two years ago. She agreed with his ideas and wished he could reach a wider audience.
She said Sanders inspired her to take on her campaign for Board of Commissioners.
“If you’re not going to stand up, who will?” she asked those gathered.
Roskind said he supports Sanders because of the candidate’s emphasis on raising money from small donations rather than large corporate contributions.
“We need to understand the corruption in the system so we can change it,” Roskind said.
As Sanders’ speech hit on some of his campaign promises – raising the national minimum wage to $15, fighting the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, free college tuition, a single-payer universal health care system – cheers rose up from the crowd seated in chairs they brought from home.
Chris Carlson of Chapel Hill said she’s been a Sanders supporter since she first heard him during an appearance on the Thom Hartmann radio show.
“How many numbers of people are coming out for him?” she said. “I was hoping North Carolina would catch up.”
Wayne Moore of Raleigh, who is working to elect Sanders’ primary opponent Hillary Clinton through HRC Super Volunteers, a nationwide group supporting Clinton, said that given the direction in which Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republicans in the legislature have taken the state recently, he was glad to see political involvement among Democrats.
But Moore said Sanders does not represent the mainstream Democratic party.
“His message, however, parallels ... Hillary Clinton’s,” Moore said, “and that is tremendous, even though he totally lacks foreign policy expertise and minority rights engagement.”