On Wednesday evening about 300 Bernie Sanders supporters gathered at the Columbus headquarters of the Ohio Democratic Party to watch a live internet broadcast from the presidential candidate to launch the campaign’s national organizing push. The Bernie Sanders campaign announced yesterday that over 100,000 people attended 3725 such viewings in private homes and larger venues.
The Columbus event was organized by Central Ohio Grassroots for Bernie Sanders, a group that is not yet formally affilated with the Sanders campaign. It started at the May 2 Gallery Hop in the Short North, shortly after Sanders announced his presidential run.
After more groundwork was done in social media and face-to-face organizing meetings, the central Ohio group “has grown exponentially,” said organizer Alex Stigler, who has supported Senator Bernie Sanders for the past six years. “I consider myself an independent. Bernie Sanders has never been beholden to corporate interests. He’s an ‘outside the Beltway’ figure who can speak truth to power.
“I am an advocate for a single payer, universal health care system,” Stigler said. “The system we have in America doesn’t cut it. We have many citizens with treatable medical conditions who don’t get the help they deserve.”
For Stigler the health care issue is very personal. “When I was 15 years old, my mother suffered a brain aneurysm,” he said. “Because she had no insurance and inadequate access to health care, she died. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else, ever.”
Central Ohio Grassroots for Bernie Sanders includes many young people who are new to politics, as well as established members of labor unions and socialist organizations. Upcoming events are announced on the Ohio for Bernie Sanders Facebook page.
“I agree with 97 percent of Bernie’s agenda, and I like his plans for implementing it, by starting a grassroots movement and continuing it after he wins,” said Irina Costinean, who joined the central Ohio group this month. “It gives me hope that considerable change can take place.”
To Costinean, the most important part of Sanders’ platform is his proposals to address economic inequality by taxing the wealthy and corporations, and raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. “For someone to work full time, and not be able to afford basic things like decent housing, is wrong,” she said. Sanders’ “support of civil rights for women, blacks, and immigrants, and access to contraception are also common-sense things that I agree with.”
Costinean thinks that Sanders has a good chance of winning the Democratic primary. “Many people who are not Democrats and have not been engaged in politcs are energized by his ideas and are willing to work hard for him,” she said. “I also think that Bernie has a better chance of winning the general election than Hillary Clinton does.”