VANCOUVER, Washington—If it’s too late for Bernie Sanders to catch his rival Hillary Clinton and win enough delegates to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, someone forgot to tell Bryan Anaya.
Anaya, a 27-year-old construction worker from Vancouver, awoke at 5:30 a.m. Sunday because he’d heard on a radio talk show that Sanders had planned a rally in his city, in advance of Washington’s democratic caucus on Saturday. He and his girlfriend, 28-year-old Nichole Vega, dressed her two children, 6-year-old Julissa and 2-year-old Julian, and headed to Hudson’s Bay High School to wait in line in a blustery Pacific Northwest downpour, to hear Sanders speak. They waited for hours. “The kids are soaked,” Vega said.
The couple don’t exactly fit the image of young political activists: They’ve never even voted. But both Vega and Anaya are children of immigrants, they said; immigrants who paid so-called coyotes to be smuggled across the U.S-Mexican border from Tijuana, risking their lives for a chance to live in America. They earned their citizenship, and Vega and Anaya were born in the U.S.
While they may have come out to support Sanders on Sunday, there’s another presidential candidate who arguably played a bigger role in the family’s decision: Donald Trump.
“We’ve been hearing a lot of stuff about Trump this and Trump that. He’s not bringing something positive to our country. He’s bringing violence. People are fighting at his rallies. We heard Bernie Sanders talk. He sounds like a good man,” Anaya said. “I feel like now is an important time for us to get involved.”
Thousands of people apparently agree with Anaya and Vega, and they snaked along sidewalks in lines that stretched from the high school’s gymnasium for blocks, umbrellas or no, challenging delegate math or no. Those who made it into the 4,700-capacity space awaited their candidate to a soundtrack of tunes with the word “revolution” in their titles, from the likes of Bob Marley and Tracy Chapman and Steve Earle. There were “Natives for Bernie” and “Nurses for Bernie” signs and multicolored hair and velvet pants, in as racially diverse a crowd as this overwhelmingly caucasian part of the country seemingly could muster.
Geno Hill, a 50-year-old Portland UPS driver, waited “a long time” to get inside the gym, along with his wife and two children. Hill says he’s well aware that Clinton maintains an increasingly hard-to-surmount lead in delegates. No matter, he said.
“No Hillary, no Trump, no Kasich, no Cruz. Hillary’s history has been behind the large incarcerations in this country, whether she had anything to do with it or supported it,” he said. “I don’t want anybody in the White House that wants to gulag our nation.”
Even if Sanders doesn’t win the nomination, Hill insists he’ll write his name on the ballot in November anyway. “I’m not voting for someone else who’s not going to get anywhere close to what I need. I don’t really believe what the polls are saying,” he said. “I think the truth is everybody’s upset, everybody feels disillusioned about the future. But nobody else running is answering any of our questions or solving any of our problems.”
An hour later, after some short speeches to the thousands of people packed into an overflowing room and thousands more huddled outside in the rain, Sanders took the podium. “All I can say,” he said after he finally quieted the cheering crowd, “is whoa.” Before delivering his standard stump speech, Sanders made clear he’s not ready to bow out anytime soon.
“When we began this campaign about 10 months ago the general feeling of the media and the pundits is that we were looking at a coronation, that there was an anointed candidate who would simply and quietly get the democratic candidate nomination,” he said. “Ten months have come and gone. It doesn’t look to me like that’s the case.”