Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn son, and Hillary Clinton, the former New York senator, brought their campaigns to New York City over the weekend. As polls show Sanders making gains on Clinton’s sizable lead in New York, and with a whopping 291 delegates at stake, the two candidates were campaigning intensely ahead of the April 19 primary. On Saturday Sanders took his campaign on a four-event blitz throughout the city, while Clinton held a rally geared explicitly toward Latinos.
Both campaigns had put to rest their most bitter battle-du-jour to date, this one around who was and wasn’t qualified to be president. But the campaigns didn’t go easy on each other either.
Sanders’s day started in Washington Heights in the ballroom of United Palace. By the time the rally got under way at 10 am the hall was two-thirds full, with about 1,000 in attendance. The actor Kal Penn jokingly introduced himself as Bobby Jindal and warmed up the crowd before Senator Sanders and his wife, Jane, came to the stage. With the aid of concert-hall acoustics, a booming microphone, and the calm of a seated, early-morning crowd, Sanders gave his stump speech at a normal speaking volume, weaving in an attack on Clinton, who this week stood next to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he signed a $15 minimum-wage bill into law for the state. Clinton only supports a $12 federal minimum wage, Sanders noted; he didn’t mention that she does support states that increase their minimum wages on their own.
In Washington Heights, Sanders got a strong reception when he contrasted his record with Clinton’s. He ticked off familiar critiques: her vote for the Iraq war, her Super PAC support, her friendship with Henry Kissinger, and her six-figure speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. Sanders launched into the bit of physical comedy he’s honed at multiple campaign events and on late-night shows, miming for the crowd the release of speeches he’s given to Goldman Sachs. He winds up like he’s pulling a folder from his suit jacket, then throws empty air at the crowd.
White Sanders supporters—among them many senior citizens and new parents with young children—outnumbered the people of color, despite the fact that it is a historically Latino neighborhood. Toddlers turned the aisles of the historic concert hall into a playground, punctuating Sanders’s speech with their wails and whines.
“[Corporations] are taking the money we need to fix our problems,” said Mohammad Ali, 67. Ali, who was born in Bangladesh (“but it wasn’t Bangladesh yet, it was Pakistan then”), said he taught special ed in a Queens elementary school for seventeen years before retiring. He’d supported Bill Clinton in the past and Obama in 2008, and still remembered that Hillary Clinton had supported the teachers’ union when she was senator, but he liked Sanders better because he trusted him more. “We can spend $3 trillion killing people in Iraq, but it only takes $1 trillion to feed children in America,” Ali said, paraphrasing a line from Sanders’s speech.