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Students attend Bernie Sanders rally

| Monday, May 2, 2016

The thousands of people gathered in South Bend’s Century Center on Sunday night could “feel the Bern,” according to Notre Dame sophomore Casey Kennedy.

“Really — the room was so hot, I felt like I was going to pass out,” she said.

An overflow crowd of more than 4,000 people attended a Bernie Sanders rally to hear the Democratic presidential candidate speak, just two days before the Indiana primary elections.

Supporters wave signs for Bernie Sanders at his rally Sunday. More than 4,000 people attended the event at the Century Center in South Bend.Katie Galioto | The Observer
Supporters wave signs for Bernie Sanders at his rally Sunday. More than 4,000 people attended the event at the Century Center in South Bend.

Sanders said Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of his presidential campaign and commented on its progress — as of today, he has won 17 caucuses and primaries.

The Vermont senator said his campaign has done better in states with high voter turnouts and stressed that Tuesday’s primary is “very important” for the Democratic Party.

“I hope all of you will help make next Tuesday the biggest voter turnout in Indiana Democratic primary history,” he said. “And I hope very much that Indiana will join states throughout this country in the understanding that we need a political revolution.”

Notre Dame senior Connor Hayes, who watched the rally from the overflow room, said there was “a surprising amount of energy” at the event.

“The Democratic contest is winding down. It’s pretty clear it’s borderline impossible for him to win the nomination at this point,” he said. “ … And I think that was the coolest thing about it — how excited people were about this candidate whose purpose at this point is shifting the Democratic Party left, not actually winning the nomination.”

Max Ujdak, a Notre Dame sophomore and South Bend native, said he carved time out of his finals week study schedule for the “once-in-a-lifetime chance” to attend a Sanders rally.

“[The Indiana primary] sometimes matters, it sometimes doesn’t matter,” he said. “This year it actually does, so it’s kind of interesting because it’s really late in the game.”

Sanders gives his stump speech at a rally Sunday night, just two days before the Indiana primary elections.Katie Galioto | The Observer
Sanders gives his stump speech at a rally Sunday night, just two days before the Indiana primary elections.

The crowd was five or six times larger than the audience at Thursday’s Ted Cruz rally in the same venue, Notre Dame senior Daniel Passon said, and consisted of a more diverse crowd in terms of race, age and socioeconomic status.

“While those in attendance rarely clapped or were engaged in what was going on during the Cruz event, the audience today responded overwhelmingly to Sen. Sanders’ stump speech and were fully and joyfully engaged in what they clearly saw as a moment in a political revolution,” he said.

Saint Mary’s first-year Courtney Buckley, who volunteers for the Sanders campaign, said the campaign is rooted in values that were reflected at the rally. For example, when making calls volunteers are told not to argue with voters.

“The campaign is founded on spreading peace, and only peace,” she said.

Sanders discussed a wide array of issues in his stump speech — including income and wealth inequality, healthcare, education and criminal justice reform.

“I think one of the coolest things about Bernie is he’s really engaging a lot of the people who tend to feel like they don’t really have a voice, especially when it comes to politics — because he talks about a lot of really tangible things that affect day-to-day experience and really matter to people who aren’t in places of power or wealth,” Notre Dame sophomore Mary Shea Kelly-Buckley said.

Passon, who waited in line for almost six hours for the rally, said in addition to promising free college tuition, Sanders also emphasized some of his lesser-known platform points, such as reparative justice for Native Americans.

The senator talked little about winning the nomination, Passon said, instead promoting his “political revolution” that “entails shifting the language of discourse to focus on the celebration of, and respect for, human dignity in the world.”

Kennedy, a Sanders supporter, said she thought the senator was an engaging speaker, particularly for local individuals who might feel politically ostracized.

“I think there was a lot of passion and that was definitely mixed, in part, with frustration and anger because a lot of the people in the Northern Indiana area and in South Bend are very personally affected by a lot of the issues that Bernie really cares about,” she said.

In light of recent losses in other states, Hayes said he came to the rally to see what Sanders had to say about Democratic opponent Hilary Clinton.

“I was kind of intrigued by how little he actually critiqued Secretary Clinton’s policies and really just kind of stuck to the broad generalizations that got him popular in the first place,” he said.

Although she supports Sanders, Saint Mary’s first-year Adriana Fazio said she sees value in attending rallies for any of the presidential candidates.

“I think most of them are very educational,” she said. “It’s just a great way to get informed even if it’s a crowd that’s not your own.”

However, first-year Maeve McMahon said she would not feel particularly safe going to the rally for Republican frontrunner Donald Trump at Century Center on Monday.

“I would love to hear [Trump] speak, to hear first hand what he has to say, regardless of how strongly I disagree with it,” she said. “If you look at the crowd here, I’ve experienced nothing but amicable relationships, and I don’t think I would find that at the Trump rally.”

Even if he does not win the nomination, Fazio said she thinks Sanders has influenced modern political ideologies in both parties.

“All of a sudden, free college and environmental protection and so many other things are on the agenda for everyone, regardless of what you think about them,” she said.

Passon said he wants to attend the rallies of all candidates who come through South Bend to become a more informed voter and participate in a primary season that “will show up in my children’s history books.”

“If the United States ever joins the rest of the world in realizing true pro-family policies like permitting working parents to spend time with their newborn children and allowing mothers and fathers to earn a living wage, this election — because of Bernie Sanders — will be remembered as the shift in discourse that made that possible,” he said.

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, The Observer's former Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's an ex-Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

Contact Katie