Near Cannonball, ND—Hillary Clinton made a last-ditch effort to capture the elusive Bernie Bro vote in battle-weary North Carolina last Thursday. She brought Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to a rally of 5,000 in Raleigh, where the two hugged, joked, and blasted Donald Trump’s bigotry.
But the Democratic candidate for president missed a real opportunity in the waning days of the campaign to attract not just a few thousand but tens or even hundreds of thousands of her former rival’s supporters.
She could have said something—anything—that showed support for or even sensitivity to the indigenous-led movement here against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
It seems the Clinton campaign still doesn’t know that the young people, environmentalists, and social-justice champions of all ages who flocked to Sanders’s progressive campaign have passionately embraced the “#NODAPL” movement. Hundreds of them are here, camping out at the main camp, Oceti Sakowin (Lakota for “the tribes of the Seven Council Fires” or “The Great Sioux Nation”).
Often wearing “Bernie 2016” T-shirts, they’re offering up their bodies as “arrestables,” helping to build tiny houses, working in the kitchens, chopping wood, sorting donated clothes, running errands, posting videos and stories.
Untold numbers are “Standing with Standing Rock” from where they live. They’re donating money, organizing and joining local NODAPL rallies, and sharing information and outrages on social media. (The raid of a prayer circle at a pipeline construction site by jack-booted SWAT teams who emerged from armored vehicles with rifles drawn is one of the most recent to fly across the Twittersphere.)
In short, NODAPL, here at Standing Rock, and everywhere, is where the Clinton campaign could locate scores of disappeared Berniecrats.
It’s no wonder. The stand at Standing Rock resonates with some of Sanders’s marquee issues: climate change, protecting the environment, the influence of Wall Street on the political process, racial and social injustice, and the exploitation and oppression of Native Americans.
At a time when the nation—and the world—has pledged to decrease climate-changing fossil fuels, the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline would transport 500,000 barrels of highly combustible crude each day nearly 1,200 miles, from the Bakken fracking fields in northwestern North Dakota through four states to southern Illinois.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been waging a legal battle to stop the pipeline developer, Energy Transfer Partners, which is funded by major Wall Street banks, for more than two years. The tribe has identified sacred burial grounds that the pipeline would desecrate and is worried that a spill could wreck its water supply, used for drinking, fishing, and irrigation. (In Indian Country, the pipeline is known as the black snake, after a Lakota prophecy that warns of the destruction of Mother Earth if the snake is not destroyed.)