By Matthew Alvarez
MIAMI, FL- You wouldn’t know at first glance walking throughout Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus that the next potential leaders of the free world were about to arrive.
Other than a seemingly higher presence of police officers and little bit more traffic, the clues were subtle.
Students casually walked to and from their classes, people studied around tables and benches, nothing truly unusual.
It wasn’t until you headed out to the front of the campus – literally all the way into the sidewalk off of 104th St that you were able get a taste of the energy surrounding tonight’s significance.
Florida has been a notorious swing state over the last couple of presidential elections. This has to do with the fact that South Florida (Liberal) has a completely different political culture than North Florida (Conservative) and Central (Moderate).
For Democrats, one of the most important differences in South Florida is the large population of young voters that have an ethic connection to one of the dozens of different Latin and Hispanic ethnicities, something that both Democratic candidates want to capitalize off of.
So far, it looks like Hillary is winning that fight.
In a Washington Post poll released on March 9th, Hillary Clinton led Bernie Sanders 68% to 21% among Hispanic Democrats in the Sunshine State. Among all Democratic voters in the state, she leads 64% to 24%.
With all this being said, it’s no coincidence that one of the hottest issues from the Miami debate was immigration policy.
Over half the population of the city of Miami are immigrants or are the literal children of immigrants.
The stakes are high as Sanders and Clinton play tug of war with Florida’s diverse electorate ahead of the March 15th primary election.
For such a large scale event at a college campus, the turnout wasn’t as huge as you would expect, but the lack of participants was made up for in passion.
The size of the rally fluctuated from a few hundred people to a few dozen by the time the debate started at 9:00 PM; at its peak the crowd spanned about two blocks.
There wasn’t a single person not chanting, or yelling in many cases, for their respective candidates.
A small group of Clinton supporters had left the area earlier in the evening, leaving it as an nearly exclusive unofficial Sanders rally.
As heavy rush hour traffic slowly drove on by, protesters urged drivers to honk in support, creating a symphony of loud cheers and car horns that could be heard from the other side of the campus.
Spirits were high across the entire crowd.
Jamie Friend, being a mid-aged activist, felt optimistic about the rejuvenating spirit that Sanders has brought to the electorate.
Friend transformed recycled Styrofoam into light up boxes that spelled out “Bernie”, activated by the flashlight of your phone, and let anyone who wanted to borrow them.
She plans on driving up to Tampa to continue lending out her light up boxes at the next Sanders rally.
Patrick Mesa came out with his own sign and high hopes, having complete confidence in Sander’s chances after his Michigan win.
“Truthfully speaking, I will not vote,” Mesa said, highlighting a fear of the Sanders campaign.
With the exception of about three Trump protesters (which I couldn’t tell if they were serious or just trying to pull a laugh out of the rally), there was an overwhelming grassroots support for Sanders outside of the debate venue.
People also took the opportunity of the mass exposure to express their own concerns and views, with marijuana legalization and anti-big-money sentiment being the major topics from the gathered activists.
Florida will become a deciding factor for the longevity of Sanders’ candidacy, and for the strength of Clinton’s campaign.
No matter who you support, you should get involved in the campaign. Create a sign, attend a rally, hold a fundraiser, annoy anyone that follows you on social media with political propaganda (actually try not to do that last one), maybe you’ll find a new appreciation for the political state of our country and its future.
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Cover Photo Credit: Matthew Alvarez/ RISE NEWS