Saturday, October 10, 2015

You've Got To Have Friends-- And Bernie Meets 11,000 New Ones In Tucson


Bernie in Tucson last night

Last night Bernie Sanders spoke in front of 11,000 13,000 exuberant Arizonans in Tucson's Reid Park, 4,000 over the capacity of the DeMeester Performance Center. He was introduced by the local congressman, Raúl Grijalva who became the first Member of Congress to officially endorse Bernie's presidential campaign-- something he had explained earlier in the day on CNN. Hopefully other progressives will follow suit. Already, several progressive candidates for Congress-- Alex Law (Camden and Cherry Hill in South Jersey), Tom Guild (Oklahoma City) and Robbie Wilson (Fayetteville and Fort Smith in Arkansas)-- have endorsed Bernie and have been campaigning on the same issues he's running on. Blue America started an ActBlue page where people who support that platform can contribute to the candidates backing Bernie. We're hoping that, even more than petitions, contributions make a point to other progressives in Congress or on the campaign trail that grassroots voters want to see them get behind Bernie.

In fact one lucky contributor this week will get a thank you from Blue America in the form of a rare and collectible RIAA-certified FRIENDS album award, commemorating the first time a TV series soundtrack ever sold a million copies. The video at the bottom of the page is the version of "Big Yellow Taxi," a song who's sentiments perfectly expresses motivations for both Bernie and Raúl, that was re-done specifically for the show FRIENDS. It's a very different version that Joni's gorgeous original.

Last night, CNN's Dan Merica covered the event in Tucson and I was following his tweet stream. Today he wrote up his impressions of the event for the CNN website:
Bernie Sanders didn't shy away from two hot button issues that have given him problems in the past-- guns and immigration-- during a large rally in Tucson, Arizona, on Friday night.

Sanders opened his more than hour-long speech with extensive comments on guns-- an issue that he is more conservative on than most Democrats-- and immigration-- an issue that, until months ago, he has not included in his stump speech.

The fact that Sanders ran head first into these issues, before launching into his standard stump speech, shows the senator is honing his message on two issues that are likely to come up at next week's Democratic debate on CNN.

Sanders has been doing some debate prep, according to his aides, and will continue to do more in the coming days as he travels to Las Vegas, the site of the debate. Though aides were clear to say they wanted Sanders to be himself during the debates, they also acknowledged that the senator was preparing for a "variety" of attacks that could be waged against him-- including on guns and immigration.

"It goes without saying that our condolences go to the families of those who were killed and our hearts and prayers go out for a full recovery for those who were wounded," Sanders said after mentioning shootings at Texas Southern University and Northern Arizona University. "But we also know that we are tired of condolences and we are tired of just prayers."

Sanders argued that while the issue of gun control is "not going to be solved easily," that "does not mean we do not address it and do the best we can."

Unlike much of his liberal record, Sanders is fairly conservative on guns. He voted against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993, a law that imposed a five-day waiting period for gun purchases and mandated background checks, and voted for allowing guns on Amtrak.

"Yes there are disagreement on how we go forward in terms of gun safety," Sanders said Friday to 13,000 people at a Tucson park. "But I think the vast majority of the American people want us to move forward in sensible ways which keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them."

The 2016 presidential candidate-- who has been surging in the polls and is riding a wave of momentum into next week's Democratic debate-- then turned to immigration, an issue that many Latino elected officials and activists felt he didn't talk about enough in the early part of his campaign. After acknowledging immigration was a problem, Sanders' now regularly mentions the issue on the stump.

"My family story is a story very similar to many people who are here tonight," Sanders said, noting his father came to the United States at age seventeen. "And that story is the story of America."

Sanders promised, as president, that his immigration plan would keep families together and include a path towards citizenship.

Friday night's event was a unique one for Sanders. A mariachi band opened the event with a series of songs and earned big applause when the members yelled "Viva Bernie Sanders" in the middle of their song.

What's more, Sanders picked up his first congressional endorsement at the event when Congressman Raúl Grijalva backed his liberal colleague and friend.

"Bernie is my friend and beyond friendship, I agree with his values," the congressman said. "I agree with the solutions that he is bringing and his campaign is bringing to the American people. And finally, as part of the answer, it is way past time that we had a national campaign and a voice that speaks truth to power."
As Raúl said in his endorsement statement, backing Bernie was a "matter of conscience" for him. "I cannot sit on the sidelines when our country faces so many challenges, and there is one candidate who I believe will fight for the bold changes we need. Bernie Sanders is fighting for a populist economic agenda to reign in economic inequality, ensure the richest among us contribute their fair share, and ensure the government works for every single American. One of the hardest things to do in politics is to stay consistent. Bernie Sanders has been consistently fighting for these issues-- not just for years, but for decades. Priorities like a $15 minimum wage and expanding opportunities are clear examples of the bold changes a President Sanders would bring, and they are examples of exactly what the American people need."

Although his stand on most issues are closer to Bernie's, Alan Grayson hasn't endorsed either candidate. He tells his own supporters that he likes both of them and would look forward to working with either one in the White House. He has, however-- and many times-- endorsed Joni Mitchell, his favorite artist. This morning he told us that "many people think of 'Big Yellow Taxi' as an environmental cautionary tale. It’s not. It’s more like a diary:

'Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now.' In 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring documented the enormous environmental damage that DDT already had caused.

'They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.' Joni stayed at a hotel in Hawaii where an otherwise-gorgeous view was ruined by a huge parking lot.

'They took all the trees, and put them in a tree museum, and they charged all the people a dollar-and-a-half just to see them.'  An apt description of the Foster Botanical Garden, all that’s left of nature in Honolulu.

And how are things today, 45 years later? Not better."

This coming week, Alex Law is walking 100 miles, going door-to-door in all 52 tons in his district. He plans to knock on 17,000 doors and hopes to talk to as many New Jersey voters, one-on-one, as he can. A Joni Mitchell fan, Alex told us that the message behind "Big Yellow Taxi" is one he's taken to heart. "Protecting our environment and investing in sustainable energy," he told us this morning, "is an imperative for the United States. Subsidizing big oil and big coal as they ravage our environment can no longer be accepted. As 'Big Yellow Taxi' tells us, 'We don't know what we got until it's gone.' Now is the time to act. We need leaders that will fight for our environment. If elected, I will be one of the loudest voices advocating for our environment and sustainable energy in Washington DC." (His opponent, Donald Norcross, made his congressional debut-- his first vote-- by crossing the aisle and voting for the Republicans in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline.)

Please consider contributing to Bernie, to Raúl and to the progressives like Alex backing Bernie and running on his issues-- all on the same page, this page.

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At 9:48 PM, Blogger tamtam said...

As someone who has lived in Tucson for the past 7 years and gotten to know the city and its people fairly well, Bernie did himself a big favor coming down here. The money may be in Phoenix, but the real essence of the state is here. He got a big boost cuz the political atmosphere of Tucson is pretty blue, much to the chagrin of the state and local Republicans who want to turn Tucson into Arizona's ghetto.

At 7:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The picture that accompanies the article is NOT Reid Park in Tucson which is an outdoor venue. I was at the Sanders rally as I have been at the same site for any number of concerts and a Howard Dean rally in 2004, The crowd was absolutely engaged in what Bernie had to say.


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