Berning Love

Andrew Berardini at the Bernie 2020 Rally

Sarah Silverman and Dick Van Dyke onstage at Bernie Sanders Rally at the Los Angeles Convention Center, March 1 2020. Photo: Brian Cahn.

“COMBS ARE FOR PUSSIES!” declared comedian Sarah Silverman. “I’m trying not to use that word that way––it’s super negative. Combs are for McConnells!” Silverman, along with Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, actor Dick Van Dyke, and yes, Chuck D of Public Enemy, gathered Sunday night with approximately fifteen thousand people at the Los Angeles Convention Center for one of the more unusual and weirdly dreamy lineups in political history, all there to stump for one tousled-hair Vermont senator ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries. 

The day before the rally, a huge crowd joined writer Rachel Kushner and avant-rocker/artist Kim Gordon in knocking on doors for Bernie Sanders around Echo Park. A week before that, Artists4Bernie published a long list of artists, gallerists, editors, writers, and curators (including myself) from all over the world, from Precious Okoyomon and Wu Tsang to Hannah Black and Agnieszka Polska to Hito Steyerl and Kara Walker, who endorsed Bernie. If there were a swarm of “Bernie Bros” on the list or menacing the rally, it was hard to see them past all the women.

Chuck D and Public Enemy Radio. Photo: Cory Doctorow.

After opening tunes from the French Chilean singer Ana Tijoux, the artist, activist, and freedom fighter Patrisse Cullors took the stage. Although she recently endorsed both Sanders and Democratic nominee competitor Senator Elizabeth Warren (who rallied the following night in East LA), Cullors gave a pretty solid shout-out for Bernie on Sunday, along with an impassioned plea for intersectional liberation, prison reform, a regime change in the LA district attorney’s office, and—as Black Lives Matter has importantly done from its very inception—remembering those black lives murdered by the police. “We do this work for Christopher Deandre Mitchell,” she said. “We do this work for Ryan Twyman. We do this work for Wakiesha Wilson, and all five hundred and eighty-five folks who were killed by the police with impunity here in Los Angeles County.”

The rally turned from Cullors to Silverman to Mr. Van Dyke, who looked just as he did in his second, smaller role in Mary Poppins (1964) as the ancient banker Mr. Dawes Sr. Preternaturally spry and sporting a long chin-beard, the veteran performer began his speech by proclaiming: “I am what remains of Dick Van Dyke.” You could tell that the ninety-four-year-old came across as basically the only person who could make Sanders, whom he loves, seem young by comparison. When he briefly lost his train of thought, the crowd started hollering, “We love Dick! We love Dick!” and I wondered to myself what Chris Kraus (also a Sanders supporter) would think.

Bernie Sanders and supporters. Photo: Andrew Berardini.

After being introduced by Marisa Franco, a cofounder of the intersectional Latinx grassroots group Mijente, the man, the myth, the hair, and the glasses that is Bernie Sanders took the stage with his wife, Jane. Sanders is always and ever Sanders. Steady on the same things he’s been saying for years. With each campaign promise, it’s hard to believe that the powers will let this guy become president. From abolishing bail to legalizing marijuana in all fifty states by executive order, these are the kinds of things I never thought I’d hear any presidential candidate say. But he is saying them, and winning.

Everything about Sanders’s campaign is hard to believe, and yet a septuagenarian Jewish socialist from Vermont is our greatest hope to stop creeping American fascism (and he’s one of the few candidates, I might add, who has come out for the arts). And here he was bringing to the stage “one of the original hip-hop groups” and one of the most politically influential of its time. These past days, the group fired Flavor Flav and officially added “Radio” to their name in response to a disagreement over playing this rally. But watching Sanders introduce Public Enemy Radio, one can begin to believe something unbelievable: This Democratic Socialist just might win.