Look beyond the hype of Bernie Sanders' rally

By Greg Caceres

In these days before spring break, all of campus is alive with a certain buzz. Thoughts of midterms completed, periods of rest and votes for political change saturate the University’s air and culture for students, professors and residents alike.

To feed the acclamation already heard as the year progressed, news of presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ visit Saturday quickly spread. Sanders’ appearance at the rally came just three days before Illinois primaries begin Tuesday.

Sanders spoke on many issues, from campaign finance to criminal justice reform and, of course, college tuition. Most pressingly he spoke of a political overhaul, in which each person at the rally would vote at Tuesday’s primaries.

He urged active participation in our democracy, regardless of affiliation, saying: “if you are going to vote for me, good. If not, that’s okay.” He praised the appearance of so many students and community members at the rally as a display of such involvement and care for the country.

But as Sanders aptly pointed out, simply showing up to an event isn’t enough — not even organizing one is sufficient on its own. His concept of political commitment isn’t a display of interest alone but a movement toward action: pencil, paper and voter card in hand.

And granted, showing up to a rally shows some degree of commitment to a cause; still, it can also represent the simple desire for knowledge. For those people who are undecided, or even torn coming into primaries, a rally could make all the difference. But for an event’s doors to open at 11 a.m. for a speaker’s appearance at 3:30 p.m. begs the question: is it worth it?

With three upcoming midterms, sleep to catch up on and spring break plans to make, I simply sacrificed too much in going to the rally, all upon a moment’s whim. Now this isn’t the story of every person at the rally; it’s not even the story of an undecided voter.

But to realize it wasn’t worth my time — a thought that came only during Sanders’ stand at the podium — made me both frustrated and disappointed. Frustrated that I couldn’t be as excited as the crowd around me and disappointed that the rally hadn’t revolutionized my thinking. And yet, others see it much differently.

Yareli Escutia, a freshman in LAS, gave her thoughts after attending the rally: “I think it was completely worth it. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and there was so much positive energy.” Even while waiting well near ten hours for such an event, it seems the energy received in the moment can outweigh the energy spent in line.CH

Seeing such an event through to completion no doubt takes commitment to a cause, and the contentment required to warrant the words “worth it” takes even more.

The words spoken at the rally remain the same for each listener, save any biased distortions of the mind. So then all that’s left are the issues of ideology and newness for the listener.

If ideology depreciates the value, then the main shortcoming is the listener’s disagreement with Sanders’ policy. But if Aristotle was right in saying we are political animals by nature, this shouldn’t matter; going to a rally to see a political movement should be a great motivator anyway.

If newness is the problem, then whether or not the listener has followed Sanders closely prior to such a rally has a big impact on the drive to attend. It may simply be redundant to see a candidate speak on the same issues he has been speaking about since entering the race.

Saying the words “worth it” takes commitment, but in truth the measured difference in worth is based on an excess, not a lack, of satisfaction with what Sanders has had to say.

In the excitement of seeing a central figure of our day, it’s important to consider the gains over the buzz. Be it a thousand miles or ten feet away from the speaker, words matter. But words are more lasting than fleeting presence, and motivations to vote should go beyond the mere hype of a rally.

Greg is a freshman in DGS.

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