As the 2020 presidential primaries kick off in New Hampshire, voters are faced with a huge decision and people from all over the world flock to watch it unfold. As many voters are battling inner voices to solidify their candidate of choice, other voters are dead set. There is a portion of voters called the “diehards.” Diehard supporters will do anything to support their candidate and put all their faith into them. President Donald Trump’s support is famously held up by a base of diehards. Through attending rallies and speaking with voters of all different candidates in New Hampshire I’ve recognized another base of diehards has arisen – the Bernie base.
President Trump and Bernie Sanders represent opposite ends of the spectrum. Although true opposites they attract a similar type of supporter: A supporter who will give everything up to see them succeed.
In a brief interview at a New Hampshire Bernie rally, Jerry Greenfield of the recognizable ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s addressed why Bernie Sanders is his candidate of choice. “I’ve seen Bernie to be unwavering for 30 years,” Greenfield said. “He speaks for the people that don’t have a voice and truly represents the people who are supporting him.” As other candidates have received backlash for their funding from billionaires and corporations Greenfield points out, “Bernie is not for sale.” Greenfield appreciates that, “Bernie is genuine. He is an authentic fighter for justice. He follows his heart and his personal values.” The Democratic party is very divided on the topic of Medicare for all. Jerry believes that, “healthcare is a human right and this idea is no longer radical it’s mainstream. We need a government that works for us all.”
At the McIntyre-Shaheen Dinner which hosted all the major Democratic candidates in Manchester, NH, the Bernie supporters were not hard to find. This dinner was hosted in the Southern New Hampshire University Arena and could have easily been mistaken for a sporting event. Everyone dressed in their “team” shirt and cheered their “team” on. The most passionate group there was chanting, dancing and holding up their light up Bernie signs. Joe Mondi was one of those people. Mondi a New Jersey resident hopped on the “Bus for Progress” to come up and support Sanders. He and others came to canvass for Sanders in New Hampshire. Mondi said, “I’ve worked with people working paycheck to paycheck. Bernie articulates the struggle.” He also mentioned the sense that in the past the process of selecting the democratic nominee was rigged against Bernie and could be happening again.
At the Bernie Breakfast rally in Manchester, NH, a large crowd gathered in a field house to hear Bernie Sanders speak. After the rally, I spoke with two women who stood proudly behind Bernie as he spoke. One of the women was Joanne Twomey a resident of Maine who has been following Bernie for 30 years. Twomey has a political background herself, having been in the Maine House of Representatives from 1998-2006 and being the Mayor of Biddeford from 2006 up until 2011. When speaking with Twomey she got emotional. Tears welled up in her eyes as she pointed out the flaws of our current healthcare system. She says that Bernie is “honest and cares” and that “Bernie is for our future.” Twomey was apart of a group that went to MSNBC at 3 a.m. to push the media to not act as “propaganda.” She stressed that many times the media pushes for one candidate which can be detrimental to others – Twomey mentioned Buttigieg’s name in who the media is supporting.
The other woman that stood proudly behind Sanders was Tania Singh from California. Singh flew across the country and got fired from her job in the process. She lost her job for taking too many days off to support Bernie’s campaign. Singh said, “I felt like I was all alone in 2015.” With a salary that just wasn’t high enough she was battling the weight of student loans. What Singh didn’t know was that millennials across the country were going through the same thing. Singh said, “Bernie addressed these real issues that were not recognized in the mainstream. I felt heard and seen. He gives us a voice.” She refers to Sander’s base as “an eclectic coalition – a giant solidarity movement.” In response to how she feels about Elizabeth Warren, a candidate that holds similar policies to Sanders, she said, “I was a previous supporter, but she doesn’t stand her ground. Warren relents. I have lost confidence in her.” Singh also didn’t appreciate Warren’s recent personal attacks on Sanders. When asked what she would say to those not currently voting for Bernie, Singh said, “You don’t have to agree with him but can’t deny that he is an honest man. It’s time to try something different.” Tania speaks for her millennial generation in describing their desperation for Bernie to win, “If we lose, we will feel desolate.”
What drives someone to drop everything and hop on the Bus for Progress, get up at 3 a.m. to protest, and risk your job to fly across the country? They believe in Bernie Sanders. They believe in his message and they believe he can create the change they seek.
Just three days after the Democratic candidates spoke, the SNHU arena filled up once again but with a very different crowd. President Trump’s supporters gathered in Manchester, NH, to see him speak. The event accumulated massive lines with vendors lining the streets selling “MAGA” hats and a variety of other Trump merchandise. Surrounding the venue supporters camped out to get the best seats.
Inside the arena, I spoke with Debby Helrock a middle-aged woman who classifies herself as a Conservative Republican from right outside of Boston. When asked why she supports Trump she responded, “I love him. He keeps this country great. He is putting people to work. The economy is booming, and he supports the middle class.” Helrock also emphasized her love of his enthusiasm. In response to the impeachment Helrock said, “Shouldn’t have happened. The Democrats have been waiting for the past 3 years for something to get Trump out of office.”
A Massachusetts 18-year-old high school senior Ryan Botsarai was in attendance of the Trump rally. His favorite thing about Trump is his, “uplifting spirit and patriotism.” Botsarai was very happy with Trump’s increase in military spending. Botsarai is a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment. He didn’t take the impeachment seriously because he knew Trump would be acquitted.
Chris Morin came from Dayton, Maine, to hear Trump speak. Morin carried with him a large American flag with President Trump giving two thumbs up printed on the front. He said that, “I support Trump because he honors the tradition of American values that people have fought and died for.” He describes current liberal leadership as “corrupt.” Regarding the impeachment Morin stated, “The impeachment that just happened is a hoax, privates in the military couldn’t even get away with this stuff.” Morin was on the floor of the arena excited for the President appear.
Trump supporters and Bernie supporters disagree on fundamental issues, but they are similar in many ways. From firsthand experience with both groups they can be described as passionate. Those interviewed on both sides emphasize how their candidate of choice gives them a voice. They feel represented on a national stage and will fight for that feeling to continue. While other candidates draw curious crowds Bernie and Trump summon spirited spectators. Their bases are unique for their intensity and energy. Interestingly, both groups feel attacked. Through speaking with Trump supporters many feel like the government and media are corrupt working to unfairly get President Trump out of office. Many Bernie supporters feel as if the system is rigged against giving him the nomination.
Both groups take drastic measures to support their favorite. Examples seen such as traveling across the country risking their job to support Bernie to camping out all night to get the best view of Trump. Overall, both groups love their candidate. These supporting groups can be described as movements. These people have built a community around one person that they feel is best for the state of the nation. Despite their leader’s flaws they are fired up unlike any other bases to see their candidate succeed.
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