An edited version of this post, "Bernie Lights Fire of Door's Drummer," appeared in the Des Moines Register on January 22, 2016.
This wasn't an acid flashback, although to my ears it sounded like one. Several months ago, I was with 27,000 people screaming for a disheveled 73-year-old Senator from Vermont. He didn't look like Mick Jagger. We were in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, where The Doors played in the 60's. I remember the mass adulation, but that was for our leading singer in leather pants. Well, hopefully it was for the music, too. Even though the white-haired politician has no colorful wardrobe, after he speaks... you want to hug him. Why? Because what Bernie Sanders says feels like the truth. The unbridled truth. And he says it LOUD. No mincing of words here...
Backstage I said to him, "It's so refreshing, almost shocking, to hear words that ring true from a politician! You're like the Pope! Excuse me for combining church and state, but both of you are saying things that the whole world knows is reality." That's why the mass appeal (no pun intended). I hope conservatives reading this get it, because "you know something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Republican."
Disappointed supporters of Elizabeth Warren, and the leaderless Occupy Movement, have the potential of filling the New Englander's ranks enormously. Let's not forget that just a couple years ago, in thousands of cities, across 82 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, the mantra that 1% owns the 99% got embedded in the world's psyche. Six-hundred communities in the U.S. alone were expressing their anger about income inequality. Gosh, that's Bernie Sanders main theme. These folks didn't know they were just waiting for a shepherd to herd them back together.
And he's a minority! I sometimes joke that I'm half Jewish, because I was raised Catholic... and we share "the guilt." Seriously, we've had an African American in office who at times has been rather centrist, we now see that some Hispanic politicians (Rubio, Cruz) are as conservative as they come -- and Maggie Thatcher didn't exactly bestow motherly love -- so it's not about race or gender anymore... it's about substance. As Kinky Friedman said, "They don't make Jews like Jesus anymore!" And, like Jesus, Bernie is on the side of the average man and woman, not Wall Street.
I met Obama when he first threw his hat in the ring, when my jazz group played a rally in South Central. It was a pipe dream back then, and he had no security, so I got to hang for a few minutes with "the man." I told him that recently my band got a star on Hollywood Boulevard, I was inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, got a lifetime Grammy, but was more excited to meet him that day. Then several years ago I thought, "Wow, in my lifetime I might see an African American man and a woman become president of the United States!" Then several months ago I thought, "I'm really not that excited about the woman part.... What's wrong? I like women... I love women... I like smart women. What's the problem? Where's the inspiration?"
Then, I googled the speeches of Bernie Sanders. Wow. My question has been answered. In an occupation that is filled with, excuse me, BS, it is thrilling to hear truth coupled with passion. This guy seems to REALLY care. And his record shows it. We have had really only two truly progressive presidents in the last 100 years: Franklin Roosevelt (possibly the most beloved prez in our history) with the New Deal, Social Security; and Lyndon Johnson with the Great Society, Medicare, the Civil and Voting Rights Acts. Obama tried, but it was difficult straightening his spine in the face of everyone across the aisle stabbing him in the back with concealed weapons.
Hillary certainly will be a better option that any Republican contender, because as Dr. Cornell West says, "I always vote for the Democrat because they're just a little kinder on the poor." But where's Hillary's passion? And, of course, she has buildings full of people trying to get her elected, and corporate ties galore. Bernie has a few young, very savvy and smart tech heads who have managed to fill stadiums of rabid Sanders fans whose logo is: "Feel the Bern!" Bernie is trying to burn through the hypocrisy. Wow, again.
At the 2012 Burning Man they built a giant replica of Wall Street and 60,000 people roared as various banks (Goldman Sucks, etc.) burst into flames. You see... Occupy hasn't gone away, it's percolating out in the desert. And there are Burning Man events going on around the globe. The Senator's people devised "Feel the Bern" not for anarchy, but to tap into the outrage over Washington gridlock. Sanders has addressed the concept of "too big to fail," as unsound economically and morally.
Most of what is said by candidates on the right is half-baked truths and fabrications coated in "patriotism or family values." Some (with big hair) say out and out lies to be provocative and feed into bitterness and rage. Everything Bernie Sanders says in his speeches is based on facts and is about empowering people, not making them angry. Gosh, there is hope.
It takes a lot of courage to take on a system that is almost broken, but Bernie is a real baby boomer. One that remembers the positive values of the 60's, and hasn't forgotten the "terrible wrong" of Vietnam. And he's doing it as a senior citizen. Why? I'm sure that he wants to go down fighting for what he thinks is right. He's done that his whole career. With that attitude, he might just go up!
Eight years ago many felt that a Black man, especially one with the middle name Hussein, could never get elected president. He won twice with the majority of votes. And so, if a guy from Brooklyn can get elected in Vermont as an independent for over 30 years, then why can't he get elected president of the United States?
John Densmore is an original and founding member of the musical group The Doors and the author of Riders on the Storm.