On Thursday morning, a line of people wearing Bernie 2016 (and 2020) campaign gear or carrying “Ben Jealous for Governor” signs waited outside the Silver Spring Civic Center—until doors opened to hear Senator Bernie Sanders speak on his endorsement of Ben Jealous for Maryland governor on Thursday.
“Wave those signs!” visitors were told as they walked into the Civic Center and secured their spots for the rally.
Before the Vermont Senator took the stage, various representatives from Our Revolution, a progressive group that formed after Sanders’ presidential campaign, spoke to the crowd, including Former Ohio State Senator and current Our Revolution President Nina Turner who emphasized Jealous’ dedication to the people.
“He understands what it means to be a servant leader. Meaning that we answer to the people and not the other way around,” she explained.
Sanders’ entrance to the stage was marked with “Bernie” chants from the crowd.
“It sounds like Maryland is ready for a political revolution,” he said.
All of the speakers touched on the gubernatorial candidate’s platform which includes proposals for $15 minimum wage, a single payer healthcare system, and tuition-free universities.
“Ben knows a truth that we don’t see too much on TV, and that is that there is an enormous amount of pain in this country,” Sanders said, describing Jealous’ understanding of the pain of the single mother who can’t pay for decent childcare and the minimum-wage worker who pays their housing with half of their income.
While building support for Jealous, Sanders criticized Donald Trump’s presidency, emphasizing the necessity of a “very, very different kind of leadership” at the statewide level.
“These are, to say the least, unusual and unprecedented times in our country. We have a president who, by temperament, is unfit to hold that office and whose policies are the most anti-working class in the modern history America,” Sanders said, citing examples of Trump’s healthcare, education, and tax policies.
Jealous also drew attention to the flaws of the current presidency upon emerging onstage to address the crowd.
“We are gathered today on Trump’s doorstep to let the world know we intend to get rid of his doormat,” he said.
Jealous, who previously served as the NAACP president, will be running against several Democratic gubernatorial candidates, as well as incumbent Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
“Hogan has a lot to worry about,” Jealous said. “The only way he got in is because there was low voter turnout. If there’s one thing that this former president of the NAACP knows how to do very well, it’s turn out voters.”
All of the speakers emphasized the power of the people and the importance of political engagement from canvassing to voting.
“When you leave this room, you have to be committed to put this energy into action because faith without works is dead, and in order for [Jealous] to win this race, he needs you,” Turner said.
Sanders echoed Turner’s thoughts, urging the audience to take action.
“TV ads are important and radio ads are important, but what is far, far more important is what all of you are going to do, and that is knocking on doors, and you’re gonna talk to your neighbors and your coworkers,” Sanders said. “The only way that change has ever come about and ever will come about is when ordinary people stand up and fight back, and that is what this campaign is about.”
This people power would extend to if Jealous was elected into office.
“The first thing that you’re taught [as an organizer] is that you don’t elect politicians to make change happen. You elect politicians to make it a little easier for you to make change happen,” Jealous said. “I’m asking you to help put me in the governor’s office so it will be easier for us to govern.”
On this journey, Jealous hopes to remain true to the people.
“Folks say, ‘Ben, are you running to the left? Are you running to the right?’ I say, I’m running toward the people,” he said.
Jonell Malone, a Communications student working with Senator Will Smith, left the event that Jealous described as an “alt-revolution meeting” feeling motivated to do more for the political movement.
“There are a lot of Democrats in Maryland, but the problem is we don’t go out and vote,” Malone said. “It showed me I have to get back out there and keep canvassing with my senator, Will Smith, and to go out and help the movement overall and make sure that Maryland stays in the right path it needs to be in.”