One Linganore student feels the Bern… just a little bit


Kasal Smaha

A line of people waiting to get into the Bream Wright Hauser Athletics Complex at Gettysburg College, the location of Bernie Sanders’s most recent town hall appearance.

by Kasal Smaha, Reporter

On April 22, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a town hall debate in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where presidential candidate Bernie Sanders would be speaking. I have seen many such events on television in years past, debates and the like, but I decided that I would like to witness something so charged in order to get a first-hand experience of what big political events are like.

A historic Civil War town in southern Pennsylvania, Gettysburg is only about an hour away from Frederick, which made it a second best option for getting the experience that I so craved. The event, held at Gettysburg College, was “town hall” style, meaning that Senator Sanders would be asked and would answer questions that had been written beforehand and that had been posed by audience members. Attending wasn’t about looking to subscribe to the platform of any candidate, but rather to understand the environment that is present when large crowds gather to listen to someone talk.

I arrived about three hours before the event, but already the line to get into the gymnasium where Senator Sanders was scheduled to speak was incredibly long. It was much like a line to get into the concert of a famous band, snaking in and around anywhere that it could fit. However, it was much longer than such a line; one person standing near me in line said, “It reminds me of the lines to get in to see the Grateful Dead.” The Grateful Dead was a California folk rock band famous for drawing thousands upon thousands of fans to a single concert, many of whom couldn’t get in.

As it turns out, I ended up being one of the fans who had to wait outside the gate, straining to hear Sanders from far, far away. In addition to several hundred people behind me. we were directed towards an overflow building, as the main building had reached capacity. While it was disappointing, one can’t just argue with the fire marshal.

The environment just standing in line, regardless of where one was, wasn’t overtly political, aside from the volunteers selling campaign merchandise and shouting to get the crowd riled up every so often. There was one volunteer, an older man, who was dressed head to toe in “Sanders for President” gear, constantly roaring the manifesto of the Bern. While waiting in line, I bought a campaign pin as a souvenir, figuring that it might be an interesting piece of memorabilia in twenty or so years.

The building used to house the supporters who couldn’t enter the main venue still ended up being jam-packed; it didn’t help that it took a while to get in since Secret Service personnel had to search and wand everybody coming in. I have no qualms with the search, it was brisk, efficient, and polite, but you can only go so fast when there’s three- or four-hundred people trying to pass through.

As the start time of the event approached, the situation became more partisan. People began talking about the presidential campaign, arguing for or against one policy or another and predicting the future. We were meant to watch a live-stream of the main event stage, though it was unfortunate that, like so many other times and places and events, we experienced technical difficulties that set the live-stream back an hour. Senator Sanders was only scheduled to speak for two hours, which hardly seemed worth the hour-long drive, two and a half hours of waiting in line, plus the additional two and a half hours that we spent waiting for the event to start.

However, even though I didn’t get to hear all of Sanders’s answers to the questions that he was asked, it felt somewhat relieving to hear things straight from the horse’s mouth. There was no third-party or middleman relaying it through the television or the radio; it was just him, speaking directly to the crowd. There’s a certain aura that one feels when at an event like this, surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people clapping and cheering, almost as if you are certain that hope has not died and that good will prevail, along with a number of other cliché emotions, though I’m sure that this atmosphere is stronger when you’re in the same room with the person speaking.

Even though my journey to hear Senator Sanders speak was plagued by annoyances and misfortunes, I am incredibly glad that I got to go. It is an adventure that is well worth the trouble because you get to experience what it’s like to be with a large crowd, cheering and clapping and becoming inspired by the will of the group. I would highly recommend that anybody and everybody who is capable attend a political rally or other event because of this. It is an experience like no other.