Are Valley residents ready to ‘Feel the Bern’? Yes, no, and ... meh

  • Saswata Mishra, a junior at UMass, shares his thoughts on Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, announcing his 2020 presidential bid. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Alexis Minnis, a freshman at UMass, shares her thoughts on Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Saswata Mishra, a junior at UMass, shares his thoughts on Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Saswata Mishra, a junior at UMass, shares his thoughts on Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Alexis Minnis, a freshman at UMass, shares her thoughts on Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ed Kaler of Leeds shares his thoughts on Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Alexis Minnis, a freshman at UMass, shares her thoughts on Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Christian Adams, a junior at UMass, shares his thoughts on Bernie Sanders announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ed Kaler of Leeds shares his thoughts on Bernie Sanders announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Christian Adams, a junior at UMass, shares his thoughts on Bernie Sanders announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Andrea Darby of Easthampton shares her thoughts on Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Andrea Darby of Easthampton shares her thoughts on Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, announcing his 2020 presidential bid on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Andrea Darby, of Easthampton, talks about her feelings about Bernie Sanders announcing his presidential bid. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jack Gadbois, of Southampton, talks about his feelings about Bernie Sanders announcing his presidential bid. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jack Gadbois, of Southampton, talks about his feelings about Bernie Sanders announcing his presidential bid. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jack Gadbois, of Southampton, talks about his feelings about Bernie Sanders announcing his presidential bid. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/20/2019 12:13:29 AM

AMHERST — During his 2016 presidential bid, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders gained a loyal following that turned up in record-breaking crowds at rallies across the country. And despite the fact that he came up short against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, the occasional “Bernie 2016” sticker still lingers on some car bumpers.

But following Sanders’ Tuesday morning announcement that he will run for president in 2020, are his supporters once again ready to “Feel the Bern”?

Joel Spiro, who volunteered for Sanders’ campaign during the 2016 election, said he thinks Bernie has “a very good chance” at winning the general election, but added that this election cycle presents “an extraordinary situation with so many people running, and so many good people running.”

“Last time, it was pretty much a very narrow choice,” Spiro said. “It was Hillary or it was Bernie, and I liked Bernie.”

Despite his work for Sanders in 2016, which included organizing a carpool from Northampton to New Hampshire to canvass for Sanders ahead of the state’s primary, Spiro said it’s too early to make a decision on who he will support in 2020.

Spiro also noted that ideas Sanders ran on during his first campaign have since gained popularity with some other Democrats.

“People running for president are agreeing with him much more than they did three years ago, so he’s made a major breakthrough,” Spiro said.

But the most important part of the primary, he added, is choosing the Democratic candidate who has the best shot at winning the general election.

On the University of Massachusetts campus, students who spoke with the Gazette were largely supportive of Sanders.

“I feel that he’s ready to change the process rather than waiting for anyone else to say it’s OK,” said Alexis Minnis, a freshman from California. “It’s bold of him.”

“I do think he’s a little old,” Minnis said of Sanders, now 77, “so we’ll see how that plays out.”

Civic engagement

Sanders’ first presidential campaign was credited with sparking civic engagement among young adults in particular. According to data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, Sanders garnered more votes from those under 30 during the 2016 Democratic primary than Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump combined.

Christian Adams, a junior at UMass from Alabama, said he voted for Bernie in the 2016 election and likes the candidate particularly for “his consistency throughout the years” on issues such as Medicare For All.

“I don’t really have the sense that other Democratic candidates are interested in pushing it as much as he is,” Adams said.

Adams said he believes Sanders has a better shot at a successful bid this time around, as he feels the senator has only grown in popularity since announcing his first presidential campaign.

Junior Saswata Mishra said he also likes Sanders, but has concerns about the candidate’s prospects of actually winning the presidency.

“As much as I personally support Bernie Sanders … it seems that overall a lot of people don’t have a favorable opinion of him because he’s so liberal,” Mishra said.

“I would want a candidate that can win the election … so someone with a broader appeal would be nice,” he added.

Easthampton resident Jack Gadbois echoed Mishra’s concern.

“Given the power of the office … for most of the mainstream United States, he’s a bit far to the left,” Gadbois said.

Gadbois said he would prefer a candidate who could bring greater unity to the country.

“This tug of war just doesn’t get us anywhere,” Gadbois said.

“I think what we need is someone with practical, common sense that will get us on an even keel,” he added.

Right issues

Andrea Darby of Easthampton said she’s glad to hear that Sanders is running again, as she believes he “brings something to the field that the candidates don’t really talk about.”

Darby emphasized issues such as universal health care, education and military spending — “Things that ordinary working people… if they really looked into it, I think that’s what they’re thinking about,” she said.

Despite holding a favorable opinion of Sanders, Darby added she would like to see a “rising female candidate” emerge among the candidates. However, she thinks that a male candidate such as Sanders would fare better in the polls.

“Unfortunately, it occurs to me that he might have a better chance at running than (Massachusetts senator) Elizabeth Warren, because he’s a white male, and, in this country, we still identify leadership with white males,” Darby said, adding that Warren has been “raked over the coals.”

Ed Kaler of Leeds was more wholly supportive of Sanders.

“I love him,” Kaler said of the candidate. “I voted for him last time, I’ll probably vote for him again.”

For Kaler, Sanders provides “much more justice for American citizens” than most of his competition.

Kaler does think that Sanders will see competition from Warren, who announced earlier this month that she will also be running for president, but said that he would be content with either option.

“Elizabeth is great, wonderful,” Kaler said. “I’d love to have her as president, I’d love to have Bernie, so we’ll see.”

Humberto Caro of Springfield, who is also the general manager of Bruegger’s Bagels Northampton, said that he is “indifferent” to Sanders’ announcement.

“I think we have other options this time around, so I’m not very thrilled about it,” Caro said.

Aside from Sanders and Warren, other notable Democrats who have announced 2020 campaigns include Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; John Delaney, D-Md.; and Julian Castro, D-Texas.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.Gazette intern Matt Berg contributed to this report.


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