Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressed an estimated 100,000 supporters at more than 3,500 house parties in all 50 states on Wednesday night, at what is being called the largest campaign event of the 2016 election cycle thus far.
The organizing kick-off, which Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) said was aimed at building a political movement from the ground up, saw the democratic socialist beamed into bars, libraries, and living rooms from Alaska to Florida. There was a "custom cocktail" featuring Vermont maple syrup at a bar in Washington, D.C., while a Texas event served up "brisket and biscuits for Bernie."
The man himself spoke from what the Burlington Free Press described as "a modest, steamy apartment" in the nation's capitol. His remarks were delivered "off a yellow legal pad balanced precariously on a wobbly music stand," added Salon.
"Tonight is a historical night and all of us are making history," Sanders said. "Why are we seeing spontaneous uprisings if you like and meetings in cities and town all over this country? My answer is the American people are saying loudly and clearly, enough is enough."
During his speech, the Free Press reports, Sanders touched on his major campaign themes: addressing income inequality, raising the minimum wage, and reforming campaign finance laws. He spoke of "institutionalized racism," making college affordable, and the scourge of mass incarceration. He said the only way to take on the "billionaire class" is with a strong grassroots movement, a "political revolution" involving supporters who knock on doors and talk to friends and family about the campaign.
To that end, according to the New York Times, the house parties "centered around a technological infrastructure that uses text-messaging sign-ups and a deep database of volunteers. Attendees at the house parties were asked to text a number to opt in and show interest."
For some, the level of excitement and attendance around the national organizing event was not surprising, given the capacity crowds Sanders has been drawing across the country.
In These Times reported on one get-together in the battleground state of Iowa:
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Julie Casella is a stay-at-home mother with two children, and her husband Paul is an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa medical school. She organized a potluck house party at her home and set out several televisions and computer monitors so her guests could watch Sanders’ speech from the living room, kitchen or front porch while snacking on food, drinking beer and socializing.
"I just really like Bernie Sanders because he says what he thinks," Casella said. "He’s been consistent. It's his belief. It’s not about him wanting to be president."
"I’ve never done this before," Casella continued. "I've never tried to host a house party. The last time I got really involved was George Bush's second election and I wanted him to lose so badly. I always caucus, I always vote, sometimes I give a donation. But this is the first time I've ever felt like I really want to work hard for this."
"I have never seen a campaign as exciting as this," 59-year-old John Carroll Meehan told Alabama's Birmingham News at a gathering in that city on Wednesday night. "I think Bernie Sanders represents change that is really needed here in this country and I think he has livened up America. I think the movement is building up and it's building up right here in Alabama."
Or, as CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose said Thursday: "Bernie Sanders is showing us again this morning that his campaign is different."
Those who missed the event live can watch an archived version here: