Sen. Bernie Sanders fired up his supporters at a raucous fundraiser at the Avalon Hollywood on Wednesday night. The crowd skewed young and white, and eagerly cheered the 74-year-old presidential candidate's message of political revolution.
“What you have now is a rigged economy, by which the rich get richer and everybody else gets poorer,” he said. “We have got to create an economy, and we can, that works for working families and not just the billionaires.”
Sanders campaigned in L.A. one day after the Democratic candidates held their first debate. He told the crowd he had raised $2 million during the debate, and emphasized that his campaign is fueled by small donations.
“This is not a meeting around some rich person's dining room or living room, where people are putting in $100,000 into a Super PAC,” he said. “This is a people's meeting. … What we are showing is we can run a people-oriented campaign, funded by people.”
Afterward, Sanders did attend a more exclusive fundraiser at the Beverly Hills home of Syd and Linda Leibovitch, owners of Rodeo Realty. The minimum contribution was $250. According to a pool report, Sanders joked about appearing at a “proletariat” home.
“The truth is there are many people in this country who have money but also believe in social justice,” he said.
At the Avalon fundraiser, Sanders was introduced by L.A. Councilman Gil Cedillo, who noted that he was the only L.A. elected official to join the event. Cedillo praised Sanders' consistency on social justice issues, and said he “recognizes we are all immigrants.”
Sanders' home state of Vermont is just 1.5 percent Latino. In his brief remarks on immigration, Sanders did not show the conviction or the fluency with the topic that most California Democrats display.
“Yes, people can have differences of opinion on immigration,” Sanders said. “But it is not acceptable to stoop to racist attacks against the Mexican people.”
A local politician probably would not have said “Mexican.” Sanders supports a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. But he was against the 2007 version of immigration reform, saying a guest-worker program would drive wages down for American workers.
Some of Sanders' supporters were too young to have been following President Obama's first campaign in 2008. For them, Sanders is the first candidate they've felt passionate about.
“I think he's the most genuine politician,” said Whitney Orvis, 21, of Camarillo. “He sticks with what he believes in.”
Orvis got her mother interested in Sanders, and both made the trip out from Camarillo to see him in person.
“He's not scared to stand by his opinions, even if it's not popular,” Orvis said. “Hillary — I don't hate her — but I feel like she's easily swayed. Bernie isn't.”