CONCORD – A group of Bernie Sanders canvassers organized by Working Families were granted a rare, small audience with the Senator in a campaign where packed rallies have become a staple.
The group of about 70 volunteers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut—along with a number of organizers from the on-the-ground operation in New Hampshire—didn’t know the senator would be there. Before his arrival, the IBEW hall where they gathered before a canvassing outing was abuzz with murmurs that “someone” would be coming to speak to them. Just a few minutes later, the group stood a feet away from the presidential hopeful as he espoused his campaign’s hallmarks: busting up Wall Street, campaign finance reform and free healthcare and public education. He also thanked them for their commitment to his campaign and dedication to increasing voter turnout.
“We will win in New Hampshire if there is a high voter turnout,” Sanders told the group of volunteers. “That is up to you.”
After Sanders finished speaking, the crowd surged toward the black barrier that had been erected, hoping to snap a picture or get a signature from the Senator. Though his time was short, when Sanders left, the room was electrified. Despite the snow, the canvassers quickly headed out to partake in the grassroots effort that Sanders is so proud of.
New Jersey was strongly represented in the Working Families group primarily made up of young volunteers.
“This morning 75 WFP activists woke up at the crack of dawn and boarded buses from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut to talk to voters about why America needs a political revolution, and why Bernie Sanders needs their votes,” said Analilia Mejia, NJ director of Working Families. “Bernie has been clear from the beginning that his campaign is about more than electing a president; it’s about building a sustainable movement that will rewrite the rules of our rigged economy and give working people a fair shake. Here at Working Families we’re proud to be doing our part to make this political revolution a reality.”
According to Brandon Diaz, 21, of New Brunswick, he supports the message of Working Families and, by extension, the candidate they have endorsed in Sanders. He thinks that Sanders ideas on issues like campaign finance reform are critical for the future.
“They did about 90 percent of the work so I figured that I should step up and do the remaining 10 percent,” said Diaz of Working Families. “This is a great opportunity for me.”
Khalil Brown, 22, said it was the grassroots nature of Bernie’s campaign that encouraged him to make his way from the Garden State to the Granite State.
“The fact that this is a grassroots campaign is why I have been with him from the beginning,” said Brown. “The tight race in Iowa really made me realize that we need to support his message and be part of the campaign.”
According to Brown, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is often considered to have the advantage only because of her longtime status as a household name.
“I think as people learn about Bernie his campaign will keep doing well,” Brown said.
Recent NJIT graduate Rony Codjoe, 22, agrees that Sanders’ momentum will continue in the South despite poll numbers that have put him at a disadvantage against Clinton among minority voters.
“I think, unfortunately, a lot of African Americans aren’t taking the time to learn about him. This is something I am actually seeing in my household,” Codjoe said. “My parents love Hillary Clinton and I love Bernie Sanders so they weren’t too happy when I told them I would be coming here. She has been around for so long and she is such a household name that I feel it is hard for him because people know him less. Even I didn’t know too much about him last year.”
Despite his parents’ ardent Clinton support, Codjoe said he is still hopeful that they will join him in support of Sanders.
“I am really trying to convert them. I am really, really trying,” Codjoe said. “I think, maybe, I can.”
Sanders is expected to beat Clinton by a significant margin in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
According to Wanaque’s TJ Walter, 19, the high polling margin is both good and bad for Senator Sanders.
“Bernie lost by .2 points in Iowa and they framed it as ‘Bernie lost,’” Walter said. “The expectation of winning in a poll by CNN had him 31 points up so if he doesn’t meet that, they are going to frame it as ‘Bernie lost’ because he didn’t do well enough. It is up to us to get enough people out that we are a major force moving in to Nevada and South Carolina.”
According to Codjoe, the reason that so many young voters like himself have turned out in support of Sanders is the senator’s vision for the future.
“We are the future leaders of America,” Codjoe said. “It is our futures and our kid’s futures that are on the line.”
If Sanders does as well as expected he will likely come out of New Hampshire with more delegates than Clinton. After the near-tie in Iowa, Clinton currently has 23 delegates to Sanders’ 21. There are 32 Democratic delegates at stake in New Hampshire.
Working Families is a political organization that fights for progressive candidates. They endorsed Sanders in December 2015.