My guest today is Bob Koehler, journalist, author and activist.
JB: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Bob. I loved your most recent piece, This is What Democracy Looks Like. What were you referring to?
BK: Hi Joan, it's great to be back. I was referring to something both enormous and fragmented and particular. Democracy is participation, even when it's painful, and belief that change is possible. I felt close to the concept of democracy as my friends and I stood in the bitter Chicago cold, waiting to hear Bernie Sanders, surrounded by chanting believers in the possibility of change. I also realized that democracy is also chaos and uncertainty. Would the Trump people show up? How would we react? Democracy is so much more than casting a ballot and watching the horse-race analysts on TV toss around numbers and sound bites. Democracy is solidarity, setback and endless determination.
JB: I had no idea that you were a rally-attending kind of guy. Have you regularly engaged over the years? If the answer is no, what got you going this time around?
BK: I'm not a rally-attending kind of guy in the sense that I don't get all pumped up and shout "Ber-NEE, Ber-NEE!" But I love adventure and I love unfolding history and I bring a pen and notebook and take notes. I was also immensely curious about whether Trump protesters would show up and how that would go. Once I got there, I found a sort of energy that was way, way bigger than us-vs.-them, and I loved that. I felt something at the event that I could not have gotten from a TV clip of Sanders' speech.
JB: [If it were even televised....] A few days ago, I interviewed an Ohio mom and veteran who waited eight hours to hear Bernie, five of them in the pouring rain. I haven't seen this much excitement in a long time. What kind of turnout did they have at the Chicago rally you attended? The weather certainly wasn't cooperating.
BK: Well, the weather could have been worse. It was chilly but not subzero, nor was it snowing or raining. Still, whatever the weather, the crowd would have been huge and the enthusiasm immense. I'm not sure what the seating capacity of the Auditorium Theater is, maybe 4 or 5 thousand. It was totally packed and there were at least several thousand people, that I could see, who could not get in. We all felt bad about that. The line started at Van Buren and stretched to Congress, one city block, then doubled back to Van Buren -- again and again and again. I lost count of how many back-and-forths we made but I'm sure it was at least eight, which would equal a mile, and as I say, there were many thousands of people behind me. The ordeal of waiting to get in is part of "what democracy looks like" and part of my exhilarating memory of the event. What I could feel as I participated in all of this was a mounting cry for profound change. As I'm sure Bernie would himself concede, the movement is bigger than just his candidacy. It's about the future.
JB: Clearly, a lot of people in Chicago that night agreed with you. What did Bernie have to say? How long could it take for the purportedly "one issue candidate" to make his case?