Presidential candidates and their spouses paraded through New Mexico last week just in time for our June 7 primary election. Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton each hosted rallies in Albuquerque. I attended all three events and found some interesting similarities among stark differences between the candidates.
The first to come to Albuquerque was Bernie Sanders. The senator from Vermont is notorious for drawing huge crowds. But nothing could have prepared me for the long line that wrapped around the block and right out of Downtown.
I must admit I was a little nervous. Thousands of people poured in to listen to the democratic socialist. Waiting for hours, the crowd erupted when Bernie finally took the stage. “BERNIE, BERNIE!” the crowd chanted.
“It looks like Albuquerque is ready for a political revolution!” Bernie said. The crowd reignited with applause. Bernie then added reassuringly, “We are in it until the last ballot is cast!”
With his finger waving high in the air, Bernie covered a range of issues from stopping global warming to the loss of manufacturing jobs to globalization, and of course, the growing income inequality between the super rich and the middle class. But perhaps the largest applause came when Bernie brought up equal pay. Every woman in the audience screamed when Bernie asked if they were ready to fight for their full dollar. Sanders’ rally was by far the most enthusiastic.
Entering the Trump rally I was again a bit nervous. This time however, it was not an excited nervous but instead a more unsettled feeling. Unlike the other rallies hundreds of protesters lined the streets. Right away the Trump rally had a more combative vibe.
The former reality TV personality put on a show. Huge stands, much larger than the bleachers behind Bernie, towered behind the podium. An offstage speaker boomed down instructions to the audience like the voice of God. I was actually disappointed there was no live band to accompany Trump’s entrance.
Protesters quickly began interrupting Trump, but he seemed to revel in the protesters, yelling, “Get ‘em outta here!” to thunderous applause.
Trump spoke about the failings of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. He also focused on economic stagnation and the loss of manufacturing jobs due to poor trade agreements. In contrast to Bernie’s ovation from women, when Trump said he was going to win with women, a more muted applause came from the crowd. Beside a few school yard taunts, Trump was surprisingly boring. His speech remained shallow, never delving deep into issues, policy or personal concerns.
The simultaneous protest was not the apocalyptic chaos the national media made it seem. Yet the Trump rally was by far the most divisive. There was a clear “us vs. them” nature through out the event.
The next day I arrived at the Alamosa Community Center to see Bill Clinton. Hosting the event in the community center gymnasium gave the rally a more intimate tone. The turnout was impressive for the middle of the day, but came nowhere near the thousands that had attended Bernie and Trump's rallies.
I began wondering, “Where is Hillary?” But once Bill began speaking in his hushed Southern voice, I realized it was a calculated move on Hillary's part. Unexpectedly, Bill was the best speaker of the three. Besting the boisterous styles of Bernie and Trump by interweaving anecdotes and quips into detailed plans for solving society-wide problems. The ex-president's presence was a friendly reminder to voters that if Hillary wins, Bill will also be back in the White House. The potential First Dude also discussed the loss of manufacturing jobs. But as the signer of NAFTA, Clinton instead focused on giving tax credits to companies that keep jobs in America.
Clinton’s was by far the most relaxed of the three rallies. But that sense of leisure won’t last long: Voters are ready to cast their ballots and the general election approaches.