What is it like to attend a U.S. political rally?

It was around 10 am on Tuesday morning and hundreds of people started to gather outside the San Diego, California Convention Center to hear Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak later that night.

By 3:00 pm, the line was more than ten thousand deep, with still more than two hours before doors opened and another five hours before Senator Sanders took the stage.

The crowd was calm and excited, but anxious knowing that as they waited, three states, Utah, Idaho, and Arizona were voting in their primaries to elect the Democratic Party’s nominee. While many in the line felt Utah and Idaho would swing towards Sanders, the uncertainty of Arizona was looming.


I arrived at the venue at 4:00 pm and walked down the line to get a sense of the moment, and was shocked that people, even knowingly so far back that their chances of getting inside were slim, toughed it out in line. For them, it was a historic moment.

For me, this was my first ever political rally for any candidate, and I was privileged to be covering it as press. While I thought about the tens of thousands waiting and the many that wouldn’t even get in, I walked through a back door, heavily guarded by secret service agents and found myself seated in a wonderfully air-conditioned venue, again remembering those tireless Sanders supporters standing outside in the sunny San Diego sun.

As the room began to fill with supporters, large screen were playing live coverage of the night’s presidential primaries, with mentions of Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ Democratic rival met with light boos, but the mere mention of Republican front-runner Donald Trump met with a deafening level of contempt. These people had been waiting in line for the better part of the day but were lively and ready to cheer on their candidate of choice.

It was just after 8:00 pm when Hollywood actress and star of Netflix’s Daredevil, Rosario Dawson took the stage to pump up the crowd by repeating Sanders positions and why she has chosen to back him, before eventually introducing the senator to ear piercing screams of support.

As Sanders took the stage, the knowledge that he has lost the primary in Arizona had made its way through the audience, but that did not deter them, or Sanders. He reminded the crowd that he had won 10 states already and remarked that “unless I am mistaken we are going to win a couple more tonight.”

Sanders speech was his usual stump speech, with no other contests decided he was not there to celebrate just yet, but instead remind the audience why he was running for president. He got the biggest rise out of the crowd when he mentioned that his campaign was standing with women, and then also standing with Latinos. San Diego has a large Latino population and if the audience in attendance was any indication, they are clearly rallying behind Sanders.

Bernie Sanders leads crowd in calling for peace


The atmosphere of the rally can only be described as electric and you could simply feel the level of excitement and enthusiasm from the crowd. Even from the barricaded confines of the press box, you felt as though you were standing in the crowd with over 9,000 supporters. Another few thousand had actually been let into an overflow room that had a big screen set up so people did not miss the rally.

American political rallies are much like concerts around the world where people line up for hours to hear their favorite bands, or in this case politicians. You already know what they are going to say, but you want to hear it for yourself anyway. 

The rally was unlike anything I have ever experienced and seem unique to the circus show that has become American politics. While they seem over the top, they do excite a voter base and the large crowds gather a lot of attention.

Sanders later went on to win Idaho and Utah, tightening the distance between himself and Clinton, but for the crowd in San Diego that night, even for just an hour, the delegates didn’t matter as they gazed upon their desired command-in-chief and rallied behind a political movement that country has not seen in some time.

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