Come hell or high water, it seems that one thing is clear about Senator Bernie Sanders — he’s not going anywhere any time soon, and the CNN/Univision Democratic debate proves it.
If you watched the debate, you probably didn’t actually learn anything new about each candidate’s policies or experiences. At this point we know the narratives well. Clinton and Sanders both have strong ties to modern liberal and progressive values. Sanders was arrested as a college student standing up to segregation, and Hillary was part of an undercover operation that exposed racist schools in the Deep South just a few years after that.
To me though, the most important take away from the debate was that standing ovation that Bernie’s closing remarks got. Sure, as a Sanders supporter myself it felt nice seeing the audience there react so boisterously to his closing statement, but if I were a Clinton supporter, I wouldn’t think that ovation was any less important. In fact, if I were on Team Hillary, I’d see that ovation as a bad omen for Tuesday’s election.
The experts had Hillary walking away easily with Michigan’s primary tucked into her pantsuit, but that simply did not happen. There has been wide speculation as to how Sanders pulled one of the most stunning upset victories in American political history, with many saying it was his debate performance coupled with Hillary’s attacks on his record on the auto bailout during that debate that pushed Sanders ahead. Some have said it was just outdated and bad polling. I’m a comedian, and so to me all the guesses are cool and all but they don’t really matter right now.
What matters is that Sanders isn’t going quietly into the night. What matters is that people really are resonating with his message. That message has to be a good one because as Bernie pointed out in one of the truly best debate zingers I’ve seen, Hillary is copying it. Maybe in the end Sanders’ refusal to shy away from the socialist label will get him. Maybe the fact that he had the balls to tell the truth about Cuba — that the human rights violations are egregious but that some advances in healthcare and education have come out of there — will tank him. I don’t know about any of that. I just know that even after he refused to distance himself from complimentary language he used to describe Castro in front of a a largely Hispanic Florida crowd that same crowd did this:
The quality of the clip notwithstanding, the ovation Bernie gets as he finishes his statement is palpable. And the look on Hillary’s face as she realizes what she’s seeing is the key to this whole thing, isn’t it? Maybe her supporters aren’t ready to admit it. Maybe Republican politicians think they can just bat it away by calling it “socialism” like the Cold War never ended. But this thing that Bernie Sanders started has a lot of human emotion and support wrapped up in it.
In the end, the machine just may be too rich and powerful to allow someone like Sanders or even Trump to win. The comparisons between the two are pretty unfair considering one has a thirty year record of public service and the other is literally garbage in a suit. But there is a common thread of people just being so sick and tired of the status quo, so angry and upset by being told that we can’t afford good schools, roads, or bridges, but can afford every politicians’ paycheck and defense contractor’s new weapon du jour. And that ovation will likely be repeated at every single debate Bernie shows up to, because the revolution is here, and axioms be damned, it is indeed very televised.
Revolutions don’t always end up putting the guy in power that was calling for them. So maybe when the dust settles it’ll still be “Madam President” time. I’m not against that per se, but I have a feeling I’m like the people who stood up to cheer Bernie last night. I’m ready for something bigger. Something more. Something meaningful. Something not Trump, sure, but something not Clinton if I can get it too. The ovation last night proves I’m not the only one, and that’s enough for now.