At Raucous Temple Rally, Bernie Sanders Says Hillary Clinton Not “Qualified”

What it was like inside the wild Liacouras Center rally as thousands "felt the Bern," and the battle for the Democratic nomination for president intensified.

Bernie Sanders at the podium at Temple University's Liacouras Center. Photo | Kyle Laskowski

Bernie Sanders at the podium at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. Photo | Kyle Laskowski

Bernie Sanders spoke before a packed-in crowd at The Liacouras Center on Temple’s Main Campus Wednesday night. He and his camp cast the upcoming Pennsylvania primary on April 26th as a critical step in furthering their recently burgeoning momentum. This came on the heels of their still-fresh snag of Wisconsin’s primary on Tuesday.

“A lot has happened in the last 11 months,” Sanders said. “When we started we were 3 percent in the polls, about 60 points behind Secretary Clinton. There was a poll out today, a national poll: We were up 2 points!”

Those inside the arena responded to that rallying cry with roars and unending effervescence — especially notable given that most in attendance waited in labyrinthine lines for hours before entering.

Earlier, thousands of Sanders supporters had snaked around the North Philly blocks that frame the arena. While State Senator Art Haywood spoke of his endorsement of Vermont’s own, Senator Sanders paid a visit next door to the overflow of partisans turned away at the door.

As those feeling the Bern queued Wednesday evening, a cluster of students perching atop a nearby parking garage conducted an impromptu chant that edited Temple’s fight song with Bernie-centric lyrics as the crowd below sang along.

Fight, fight, fight for our Democratic rights, for our Democratic rights we’ll fight, fight, fight.

And while young adults certainly comprise a sizable chunk of Sanders’ base, that mission statement resonated with middle-aged and older folks as well.

Patti Jarozynski, 53 from Elmer, New Jersey, met up with six fellow Bernie supporters from Jersey through a Facebook group to carpool to North Philadelphia. None in the group had met each other prior to Wednesday. “I’ve been following him for years,” Jarozynski said. “I’ve been in volunteer groups since August and I just really support him. He’s a great guy and I wanted to see him in person.”

Michael Whitehead, 63, of Chester County, said in regard to the policies Sanders has espoused and the reactions they have triggered, that he hasn’t seen anything of the sort since the ’60s: “I think it’s a major historical moment. We’re facing some major social change. In my 60-odd years I haven’t seen anything like this. All the major problems we’re facing, he’s trying to offer a new way of organizing our politics and our society.”

Also in line were the thousands of young people you would expect, enthused by Bernie’s progressive vision and eager to see the Senator in person.

Friends Josh Williams, 18, and George Baidoo, 17, of Philadelphia, both said that Bernie’s plan for no-tuition public university caught their ear as young people about to enter college. Williams said that seeing as how he’s now legally allowed to participate, he wanted to “get his feet wet” first and see what Bernie stood for. For Baidoo, Sanders’ civil rights track record was critical. “How he wants to help the black community, I’ve seen differences in how he goes about it and how Hillary goes about it, and I think he’s more beneficial to us.”

Hayley Derbyshire, a senior at Germantown Academy, traveled with a friend to see Bernie up close.

“Bernie is a man for the people,” Derbyshire said. “He just comes off as so genuine and passionate and he’s the only political leader I’ve seen, or think will come around in a long time, who’s going to challenge the system. The way that he is. … He’s just so brazen.”

When Bernie finally clutched the podium, his platform’s key points were steady and distilled. But he dug his heels deeper in response to reports that Hillary Clinton called him unqualified (though that term appears to have originated from a newspaper headline, not Clinton):

“Secretary Clinton appears to be getting a little bit nervous,” Sanders said. “We have won 7 of 8 recent primaries and caucuses. And she has been saying lately that she thinks that I am quote-unquote ‘not qualified’ to be president. Well let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton: I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her Super-PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars of special interest money. I don’t think that you are qualified if you get 15 million dollars from Wall Street through your Super PAC.”

As anaphora is a little drier in print than in person, I’ll condense the rest. He asserted that Clinton is unqualified for our highest office because of her voting record and her coziness with Wall Street among other highlighted blights. Every line item brought louder and more assured roars of agreement.

Among the sardined multitude in the pit, Philly Jesus strode about in his white robes, manning a shepherd’s staff as he navigated the sea of Philadelphians reaching out for him.

Similarly, the Sanders campaign has prided itself thus far on swimming upstream. Bucking trends at the pulpit no doubt lends itself to a following that fails to fit a mold, even as many say otherwise.

At the outset of the event, a white-haired gentleman walked out into the pit area with a sign that read: “I’ve been an R for 32 years and I’m voting for Sanders.” The young crowd, still only filing in, erupted in cheers and raucous applause for him.

The man responded by hoisting his sign in the air higher still, his mouth peeling into a joyous smile.

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