By Katie Gagliano
Bernie Sanders knows how to ring in the new year.
Sanders’ New Year’s Eve party at the Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel, a National Register of Historic Places landmark, was combined standard political and New Year’s Eve fare. Spirits were high and a sense of enthusiasm was in the air, both for the candidate and the approaching new year.
Attendees ran the gamut, from families with young children to millennials decked in sequined dresses and sports coats. The party-goers reflected the liberal leaning, broad age range typical of Sanders’ events.
The main ballroom was classic, with patterned carpeting, crystal chandeliers and mirrored panels lining the walls. A cash bar was set up along the back wall and tables with finger food lined the middle of the room. Guests circled an artist in the lobby who was live-painting portraits of Sanders.
Handmade signs covered in Bernie-oriented puns and Sanders’ key platform issues lined the hallway between the two ballrooms, including “Talk Bernie to Me,” “Orcas against oligarchy,” and a gold glittered “Bernie” sign outside the entrance to the second ballroom.
Crowds were fairly subdued at the event’s 6 p.m. start time, but attendee numbers increased as the night went on. Sander’s staffers mentioned at his morning rally that 1,500 RSVPs were received for the event and more attendees were expected. Whether Sanders’ event reached that number is undetermined, but this was a strong turnout for an event held on a popular holiday evening.
Sanders first emerged around 7:15 p.m. He came out with pizzaz, walking onto a low stage with a black curtained backdrop overlaid with a large American flag. Floodlights focused all eyes on Bernie.
“We together have an opportunity to make 2016 a year history will warm remember,” Sanders said.
Sanders went on to summarize his key platform issues including income inequality, universal health care, environmental preservation and America’s high incarceration rate. His speech was brief and served to remind the audience of his beliefs, rather than inform new voters. Many of the guests were familiar with Sanders’ platform and would cheer throughout his speech.
“We need millions of people from Iowa and across the country, to stand up and say loudly and clearly, enough is enough,” Sanders closed. The crowd joined in to shout “enough is enough” and the intention behind the words was clear: it’s time for a political revolution. Sanders then left the stage to applause and the tune of The Trammps’ “Burn Baby Burn.”
Angie, 37, from Le Mars, Iowa, is a mother of three committed to caucus for Bernie. She said she has already seen Bernie in person four times.
“I’m a big supporter of Bernie,” Angie said. “I used to live in Europe and socialized healthcare was such a blessing. Without Obamacare, my husband wouldn’t have caught his cancer in time. But with a simple visit to the doctor, it was handled. We need expanded healthcare because no one should be denied healthcare because they don’t have enough money.”
Angie refused to share her last name, concerned that her husband’s staunchly Republican employer would take offense.
The 74-year-old Sanders seemed tired. He struggled with a hoarse voice, and his face showed the toll of dogged campaigning.
The event appeared to be a success, a gathering that bolstered Sanders’ supporters and created a high-energy push that will continue to drive the campaign into the new year.
Earlier in the day, Sanders’ claimed his campaign is gaining momentum. His New Year’s Eve party served to reward his loyal supporters and to inspire their continued support.