Area residents 'Feel the Bern,' and Clinton too

The local layout of support for Sanders and Clinton defy easy categorization

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

"In Iowa, we were in an area that is basically white, Christian, working-class and they liked his message," said Oak Parker Bill Barclay, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who was in Forest Park on Feb. 5 protesting with temporary workers in front of a Ferrara Candy Company factory. 

"Bernie is going to carry Oak Park, without a doubt," Barclay said. 

His fellow DSA demonstrator Peg Strobel, who has also traveled to Iowa to campaign for Sanders, wasn't quite as confident, but nonetheless noted the candidate's support among young people. 

"Bernie is attracting lots of young people — way more than Hillary," Strobel said. "We need to bring new people into the electoral process." 

Barclay and Strobel might have summed up the foundation of Sanders' support both in the Oak Park area and nationwide — that is, young, idealistic and left-leaning. 

"I think a lot of our supporters have been involved in other controversial issues, like water fracking and the Trans-Pacific Partnership — issues that resonate with people who then become motivated because they think Bernie is the better choice on those issues," said Galen Gockel, who heads up Oak Park for Bernie Sanders and who has canvassed, circulated petitions and knocked on doors in Iowa and the Oak Park area.

Most Sanders supporters interviewed said they've witnessed more excitement, and more grassroots support, for their candidate than for his challenger, Hillary Clinton, whose candidacy, some said, would rely more heavily on the state's Democratic machine — helmed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

"I would say the support for Bernie Sanders tends to be quite enthusiastic," said Cheryl Pomeroy, Gockel's comrade in enthusiasm, who has also trekked to Iowa to campaign for Sanders. 

"We've seen no grassroots activity for Hillary, no yard signs, no literature," said Gockel. "In all probability, [Clinton's campaign] is relying on party organization." 

Jerry Delaney, the committeewoman for the Democratic Party of Oak Park, would beg to differ. 

"Yes, there is a great amount of enthusiasm for Bernie. He is very inspiring and many feel this is a make or break election for the direction of our country. On the other hand, there are Hillary supporters who feel very strongly that she is the most qualified candidate and respect her deeply for all of her involvement over the years supporting Democratic values."

Delaney said she's been communicating with "many grassroots Hillary supporters in the suburbs and in Chicago who are quite passionate." She said that many of those supporters were also active in President Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Oak Park Trustee Adam Salzman, who interned on Clinton's campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in New York and who described himself as an "enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter," said that Clinton enthusiasm exists — it just may not be as easily detected as that among her opponent's supporters.

"I have several friends and neighbors in Oak Park who are supporting Hillary. I think that support is just expressing itself in a more diffuse, less organized way at this point in the primaries. Some people are making the case on social media and some are supporting her financially."

Although many area residents who were interviewed seemed to reinforce the stock characterization of Sanders's base as young and/or radical, some factors have complicated that characterization — at least on the local level.

For instance, not all local political players are for Clinton. State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th) is a Sanders supporter who is running on the candidate's 7th Congressional District delegate slate.

And Delaney noted that DPOP has decided to remain neutral in the Presidential primary and that the group's membership "seemed to be fairly divided between Bernie and Hillary."

In addition, although many Oak Park and River Forest High School students who were interviewed observed that many of their peers were Sanders supporters, the number of respondents who expressed a preference for either candidate was fairly evenly split between the two Democratic candidates.

Some OPRF students, like 15-year-old sophomore Graham Wielgos, who said he'd vote for Clinton if he were old enough, seemed to echo the calibrated concerns of much older voters.

"Although I agree with all of Sanders's ideas and goals, I do not support him because I don't believe that he would accomplish them."

For the much older Pomeroy, however, that way of thinking manufactures something of a Catch-22.

"To paraphrase [someone else], Clinton is the most qualified candidate to head the current system and Sanders is the most qualified candidate to head the system we should have. The [latter] is what the majority of people, when polled, say they want. Why can't the people just have what we say we want? If the answer is because we don't think we can get it, then it's not going to happen!"


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John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 4:00 PM

Not a problem, Ray. According to the Comments Posters of the last couple of days, Clinton should get 1% of vote and Sanders 99? That means we get a Sanders vs Trump (probable) president race. That will be the funniest six month in our lives!

Ray Simpson  

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 3:07 PM

@ JBM OK it was an exit poll in NH. Not scientific but a reading of Americans opinion.

Imran Ali  

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 12:14 PM

I really wish this article along with others in the mainstream press discussed the polling of the general election. Many polls have been conducted generally reflecting what last week's Quinnipiac poll showed. Clinton is unelectable, not Sanders. Favorability/unfavorability Clinton 37%/58% Sanders 51%/36% When pitted against the Republican contenders, Clinton LOSES to Bush, Rubio, & Cruz. She beats Trump by 1 point (well within the margin of error). Sanders beats them all by 6-10 points. Clearly, Hillary will lose the election for us. No candidate has ever won with over 50% unfavorability. It's not going to change now. Sanders has the highest favorability, honesty, and integrity scores of all the candidates on both sides. If you are viewed as unfavorably as Clinton, nothing is going to help you get the votes you need. People just aren't going to be motivated to come vote for you. Sanders on the other hand excites voters and mobilizes them. It's an important question to ask why this data isn't covered in the old media which tells its audiences that Clinton is "electable"... while Sanders is not. The other kind of important point(!!!) is swing voters, much of which are independents. These voters prefer Sanders over Clinton. Sanders has more appeal across party lines than Clinton. We all know that the right-wing hates Clinton (for all the wrong reasons of course) so they will mobilize for their version of "anyone but Bush." The chance of a Cruz/Trump/etc Presidency scares me. We NEED Sanders to prevent this apocalypse. They are easily worse than Bush.

Kaidrea Stockman  

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 11:53 AM

She is rated least trustworthy of all the candidates in the polls but it's like 61% who view her as dishonest. Bernie is rated more trustworthy but then so is Donald Trump! :(

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 9:46 AM

Ray - you made those numbers up; right?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 6:45 AM

And we don't deserve who you want, Ray.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 1:34 AM

National polls list Hillary dishonest and untrustworthy 92% to 8% and you guys will still vote for her. You deserve what you get - - - I don't!!

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: February 22nd, 2016 8:58 PM

Not much reason to put energy in the democratic race. It's over Clinton Won. The next battle is against the Republicans. Take a rest Hillary, you will need it!

Kaidrea Stockman  

Posted: February 22nd, 2016 8:36 PM

To the anti socialist comment - what do you think Social Security is? Or Medicare, or the police, fire, and libraries? There IS a difference between Socialism and Democratic Socialism even if some people don't think so. Also, there are plenty of non young people who like Bernie. I've met more over 30 voters than under 30 for Bernie. Myself personally, I haven't seen any Hillary people out there. I only just saw my first bumper sticker. I know her name is well known already so they don't have to do much but I don't see much excitement over her. I personally feel that Bernie could bring the passion that is needed to elect more progressives to congress. So me and my neighbors are totally "Feeling the Bern!" :)

Bonni McKeown  

Posted: February 15th, 2016 7:28 PM

Thank you Michael Romain for bringing up a local angle of the Democratic presidential race. It's among the most important of our lifetime. I'm for Bernie and want to see fair coverage of all candidates. A shout out to my Oak Park Bernie-buddies.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2016 10:57 AM

Excellent points by Mr. Paris. The WJ also features an "article" about how Satan is running against these liberals. Feel the burn of that.

Ben Paris  

Posted: February 10th, 2016 5:48 PM

This article is great fodder for the uppity attitude that plagued Oak Park in general. To assume that, because the town majority rests in the Democrats, the only pertinent article would be highlighting Democrats is a telling sign of an epidemic disease. This disease is the brand of pity-giving, from-within-a-vacuum, socially-restricting political culture of Oak Park. As a student at OPRF, even mentioning a Republican in a favorable way is dangerous; I called the writer of this article and talked to him, and of course was ignored because support for a Republican does not fit the Oak Park narrative of liberal politics (although true liberals, like the forefathers of our nation, would hesitate to find anything liberal with denying economic facts and promoting social censorship.) Further, to anyone brave enough to venture into the comments, and especially for the writers of the Wednesday Journal, I would like to argue about the necessity of this article, or to put it in other words, ask: to whom are you writing? Everyone in Oak Park, and most everyone from Evanston to East Chicago, knows that Oak Park is very liberal, any middle schooler could've predicated big support for Sanders and a reserved enthusiasm for Clinton. A journalist reports facts not only to make a reader want to read an article, but also to make a reader think critically about their town, their city, their country. Writing that only serves to aggrandize is pointless and should be reserved primarily for children; I would have had no problem with this article if an elementary school had put on a mock election where Sanders and Clinton dominated. To any extent, so many articles that would've rightly been news could have been written on this topic; examining why people choose who they choose in general over "Sanders vs. Clinton," or better yet, including the opinion of the opposition (I called you and we talked over 10 minutes!) in order to highlight the socially constructive liberal toxicity of Oak Park.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: February 10th, 2016 2:03 PM

The fact that socialists are now trying to qualify their socialism by placing "democratic" in front of it is telling. It's basically an admission that socialism is rarely democratic and, tragically, often quite the contrary historically. Collectivists/socialists need to divide..i.e. rich versus poor; young versus old, black versus white, etc. If in power, "central planning" and government bureaucracies escalate. Instead of republican democracy, we get all decisions made by the assistant deputy to the first party undersecretary of the central planning committee of the agency of this and that. The state is your employer, family, religion. Socialism is ultimately the erosion of liberty and personal responsibility.

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