Oct 21, 2016 – In Colorado, Bernie Sanders isn’t just acting as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton. He’s also holding separate events to keep his movement and its issues alive in a state he won handily in the June Democratic primary. Now he is urging his followers to support a ballot measure to establish the nation’s first universal health care system. It will probably be defeated, yet his backers, who have settled for a bird in the hand this year, are certain they own the future.
Changing demographics may be on on their side, and what happens in Colorado could be a model for the rest of the U.S. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the European-style changes Sanders has passionately advocated for the U.S. will take place anytime soon.
On Oct. 17, about 2,000 people — few of them older than 25 — gathered on a football field at the University of Colorado Boulder to hear Sanders make an impassioned plea for Amendment 69, which would move the state to a health care system much like the one in Germany, where I live. The students shifted impatiently and made disappointed noises every time a local speaker took the microphone: They’d come to hear Bernie. They did a “Feel the Bern” chant, like the old days, and they surged forward when he appeared. They booed when he did a Donald Trump imitation, ripping into pharmaceutical companies’ “yuuuuge” profits, and they clapped when he said health care is a basic human right.
The Sanders cause is very much alive in a state where, less than eight months ago, I saw caucus organizers attempt to deal with the unprecedented crowds of millennials that turned out for their 74-year-old hero. In the Denver high school I visited, votes were held in parking lots and stairwells. Clinton lost to the Vermont senator by a 19-point margin.
Colorado was expected to be a battleground state this year. It hasn’t been. Most of the time, Clinton has enjoyed a big lead over Trump in the polls. The same people who ensured Sanders’s primary victory could do the same for her in the general election.
JoyAnn Ruscha, who was political director for the Sanders campaign in Colorado and a Sanders delegate at the Democratic National Convention, recalls bursting into tears when the senator moved that Clinton be nominated by acclamation.
“I’d known for weeks, months, that she would win,” Ruscha says. “But it’s like being in a relationship, breaking up and then seeing that person again. You think you’re OK, but you’re not.”
Now Ruscha is helping the Clinton campaign, though not as a staffer. She says that much of the grassroots activity that took Clinton by surprise during the caucus season has now shifted to her. “Many former staff and big volunteers are building in the Latino community what they did for Sanders,” Ruscha says.
Trump is an important reason why these young people, who mocked Clinton and called her corrupt last winter and spring, are now working for her. Trump has never missed a chance to appeal to Sanders supporters, telling them Clinton hadn’t won fairly — but he hasn’t made inroads with the idealistic young people who turned out in force for Bernie. (Continued)