On a night of Democratic primaries across the country, supporters of Bernie Sanders filled the Tractor Tavern in Ballard for a fundraiser hosted by comedian Brett Hamil. Political comedy paved the way for tunes by Tobias the Owl, Jamil Suleman, and Kimya Dawson while former mayor Mike McGinn, almost-city-council-member Jon Grant, and current city council member Kshama Sawant rallied the crowd to vote in the Democratic caucus.
The fundraiser was organized by Andrew Saturn. "I've been pretty involved and followed Bernie and other politicians for a while," Saturn said, "but his refusal to buy into the broken campaign finance system and the rejection of the status quo and the idea of gradual progress being the only way to get anything done" is why Saturn is supporting him. "I think most supporters, at least in Seattle, feel the same way—that Bernie is our generation's FDR and this is an opportunity we won't get again."
Brett Hamil said as he warmed up the crowd, "If you've been watching the news, you know that Trump has threatened to send his people to Bernie rallies. We could have been infiltrated at this point by Trump people, so what I'm going to ask you to do if you think you see a Trump person in the audience near you, I want you to all gather around that person and ask if they want a hug. Ask them what happened? What did they do to you? We could turn some lives around tonight if they actually show up. If you see someone who is about to throw some vegetables, we will collect them and give them to a local food bank. We're ready to handle this threat."
When asked if Brett would vote for Hillary if Bernie doesn't win the nomination, he responded, "I hear this a lot from people, and I don't know if they understand that's not how you negotiate. You don't give up the negotiation while it's being conducted. I think it's laughable that people genuflect and say 'yes, we will do whatever the Democratic party tells us to.' That's what this whole thing is about, rejecting the machine party politics, that have left everyone apathetic and feeling powerless. Certain types of politicians, both nationally and in Seattle, thrive in conditions where no one knows what the fuck they're doing or cares."
"Basically there are two kinds of politicians, people who want to be somebody, they want to be somebody important, and then there are people who want to do something," former mayor Mike McGinn told the crowd. "It's usually a mix of both, even that person that really wants to be important wants to do something. The thing I've noticed is as the years go by, as someone's in office longer and longer, generally they want to be somebody more than they want to do something. They get beaten down by the system. They don't think they can accomplish that much...politicians get used to all the rules. That's the most amazing thing about Bernie Sanders, he's been there forever, and just look at him. He doesn't want to be somebody. He had to get cleaned up for this election. By the way, I know about this, get the hair trimmed, wear some nice clothes...seriously, he just cares about doing the right thing. That's all he cares about. He's done it forever. You know exactly where he stands. You know he will be committed. He's not going to be trying to figure out where the wind is blowing or where the political spectrum is so he can find the exact middle. He's trying to take us somewhere. These are the problems that need to be fixed. He names them and he offers solutions. That's why he's appealing to me."
I got a chance to talk with McGinn after he spoke to the crowd. When asked what gets him fired up about Bernie Sanders, he said, "I like what he stands for. Obviously he's been a champion on issues of inequality, he has a history of standing up for those with the least in society and fighting for them and he's been very consistent with that. He also has a stronger stance on climate as well and that's something that's always motivated me and the work I've done. Time is ticking, it's running out, we've just had the warmest month on record, we've had record after record set for global warming and we need someone who is going to take bold action in that regard. Obviously 30 years of growing income inequality calls for bold action too. Looking at his record and looking at his values he seems like he's willing to take some risks on pushing what he believes."
I asked if he's going to vote for Hillary if Bernie doesn't get the nomination and without hesitation he replied "Hillary is light years better, so far better than any Republican candidate, absolutely."
Kshama Sawant fired up the crowd with a fist of solidarity before saying "Sisters and brothers, are you feeling the Bern?!"
She went on to say, "It's really amazing how Bernie's campaign has transformed the entire landscape of US national politics. His anti-corporate insurgent campaign has made gains that have been stunning enough to deny Hillary (the Wall Street and Wal-Mart candidate) the straight up coronation she thought she deserved....It's not just young people in general, it's young women. Women who were told by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, 'If you don't support Hillary, you're becoming complacent about reproductive rights.' Women who were told by Madeline Albright that 'there was going to be a special place in hell for them' if they supported Bernie against Hillary.' I think there's a special place in hell for Madeline Albright. Look at the results in Michigan which defied all polls, where both black and white working class people, when they cast their vote for Bernie, spoke out against the massive de-industrialization that has gone through the mid-West because of NAFTA and those shitty trade deals the Clinton's were responsible for. And Arab Americans, Muslims, voted in large numbers for Bernie, because they respect a real challenge to imperialism. But, my sisters and brothers, the most profound sign of our times, is the support for Socialism. This is America, this is the belly of the capitalist beast and we have millions of people saying socialism is not a dirty word, capitalism is a dirty word."
We also spoke with Becca Leitman and Ben Sandall, who were on a first Tinder date. When I asked Ben why he came to the Bernie event, he replied, "I swiped right on a cute girl and she said 'I have tickets to a Bernie fundraiser at the Tractor.'"
Becca supports Sanders because of "his socialist ideals. I'm a social worker, so thinking about my clients and what they need and look for in a politician makes me think about Bernie and his politics." Ben likes that "he's taking the government out of politics. There's too many politicians that take money from big corporations to fund their campaign. He wants to level the playing field."
When asked about voting for Hillary if Bernie didn't win the nomination, they both replied "yes." Becca added, "Anyone is better than Trump at this point".
The Tractor looked to be at capacity, but no Trump supporters made themselves known. Bernie Sanders wasn't at the event, but an impersonator took the stage causing momentary excitement in the crowd. Event organizer Andrew Saturn estimated approximately $1,000 was raised for the Sanders campaign at the door with an additional $6,000 raised online.
On Twitter, Kimya Dawson said, "I didn't say Bernie's name once during my set but the audience was chanting Black Lives Matter when I walked off the stage. I did my job."