Last week, two presidential hopefuls and a former commander in chief campaigned in Fresno. Their events were drastically different from one another, but it’s how they made their exits that truly spoke volumes.
On May 23, former President Bill Clinton left the rally supporting wife Hillary’s bid for the presidency at Fresno State the old-fashioned way: by shaking hands on the way to his motorcade. If someone had brought a baby, he probably would have kissed it.
Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump left his Selland Arena speech on May 27 in a screaming black streak of SUVs, traveling the wrong way down M Street and dragging a few city of Fresno plastic barriers along with him. A few minor scuffles between police and protesters – at least people posing as protesters – erupted in his wake.
After his rally May 29 at the Fresno Fairgrounds, Democratic long-shot Bernie Sanders got the chicken plate at Tacos Tijuana. After a 12-hour-plus day on the road and stage during what is almost certainly his last gasp, he spoke to members of the flock of young people drawn to the 74-year-old senator.
The way each left our fair city is a reflection of the men themselves. One followed polished political convention. Another literally broke through a barrier. And the final candidate ended a long, sincere, only slightly desperate campaigning day among the people.
Their rallies were more or less what I expected.
Two of the speeches were what months of 24-hour media coverage had conditioned me for. Trump attacked people and bragged. Bernie attacked people in a nicer way and stood on his principles.
Bill Clinton impressed me the most. Some people – myself included – underestimate him. We’ve seen too many “Saturday Night Live” skits, I gather – mistaking his manner of speaking for stupidity.
He is incredibly intelligent, or at least it seemed that way listening to him. It was common for the two candidates – Trump and Sanders – to say something was wrong, then promise to fix it. Clinton followed many of his observations with facts and statistics, and he peppered his solutions with them, as well. I am not sure if those numbers checked out, but it sure made him sound like he knew what he was talking about.
My experiences at the Trump and Sanders rallies were night and day.
At Trump’s, I was one of five Bee reporters covering the event. I was there to be a fly on the wall and observe the crowds. The people I spoke to before the rally were relatively friendly. Most of the dozen or so who declined an interview after were not. I’m not sure if I was just unlucky, or if Trump’s talking point on the media soured their appetites.
At Sanders’ rally, I was the only Bee reporter. (My colleague Lewis Griswold covered his stop earlier in the day in Visalia.) That has a lot to do with logistics – it was a Sunday night as opposed to a Friday morning for Trump – but a little to do with the fact that Trump is must-see TV. He’s also clinched the nomination, while Sanders is dangling from a cliff.
People were happy to speak to me at the Sanders rally. There were a lot of young people and hippies. It seemed as if many of them would much rather have been walking around the Sierra National Forest naked, but the spirits had drawn them to their candidate’s aid instead.
Sanders spoke to me. Whereas Trump allegedly used decoys to get him to the venue and was gone in a flash, Sanders took some time to talk privately to the media.
How was he?
He was tired. He put on a brave face during his speeches, but the barnstorming takes a lot out of a person.
I asked him about water, migrant workers and how he would help disillusioned Valley folks who believe the government only looks out for the cities to the north and south of them.
He answered the first question, which I noted in my story. He deflected the other two.
I did not see a single protester at the Sanders rally.
There were a few dozen protesters at the Trump rally. I also found a few more people who, as far as I can tell, were there only to stir up trouble. One man yelled at people as they left the rally until one of them got in his face. That seemed to be what he wanted.
Hopefully, the Valley ispaying attention. You’ve got one more chance to see what the next four years might be like when Hillary Clinton makes a campaign stop in Fresno on Saturday night.