Bernie Sanders in 'Little Beirut'

It’s something every political animal should do from time to time. Call it scoping out the competition, live opposition research, or going behind enemy lines.  It’s instructive to experience firsthand the nature of the politicians you hope will be defeated. To this end, I made plans to visit a forgotten old arena where the Portland Trailblazers used to play.  I’ve seen Metallica, Willie Nelson, and the Muppets on Ice at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The scheduled headliner on Sunday, August 9, was avowed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.

An unexpected element of drama was injected into Sanders’ Portland visit the day before, when a group of radicals from Black Lives Matter commandeered the stage at the Vermont senator’s Saturday appearance in Seattle, abruptly and permanently hustling Sanders into the wings.

On Sunday morning I learned that due to high demand the Portland event had been moved from Memorial to the much larger Moda Center. That evening, the city George H.W. Bush staffers called “Little Beirut’ gave the Sanders campaign its highest attendance numbers to date, with all 20,000 Moda seats filled, and eight thousand on the floor in front of the stage.

“You have done it better than anyone else!” Sanders roared from the podium.

He did not disappoint, laying down as full-throated a roof-raiser as one can expect from a seventy-three-year-old man. The litany is familiar, but the energy level of candidate and crowd smacked of an electoral groundswell some find analogous to Donald Trump’s surge on the right.

There will be single-payer government healthcare in a Bernie Sanders administration. Tuition at all public colleges and universities will be free. The refinancing of student debt at low interest rates would be mandated from the Oval Office. Policies of mass incarceration would be jettisoned in favor of education spending and jobs—jobs which would come from a massive public works project reminiscent of Roosevelt’s WPA. The power of unions would be reiterated in no uncertain terms.

If you think President Obama’s threat to bankrupt coal and regulate the profit out of fossil fuels was alarming, Sanders has an alternative energy plan that will knock your socks off.  And yes, the seas are going to rise, there will be extreme weather, and nations will someday war amongst themselves for survival on a planet scourged by climate change.

Sanders peppered his one-hour speech with surgical strikes against corporations, the Koch brothers, millionaires and billionaires, the pantheon of what he characterized as America’s “oligarchy.”

Highest condemnation was reserved for the Citizens United decision; Sanders vowed that any Supreme Court nominee on his watch would be subjected to the following litmus test: will he or she commit to overturning Citizen United?

Sanders’ bully pulpit is founded on a social and economic justice crusade that would continue Obama’s transformation with a vengeance. Make no mistake: immigration reform and a path to citizenship would happen faster than Marco Rubio can charm a roomful of Republican women. Sanders did not let the disruption of his Seattle speech stop him from thundering, “Black lives matter!

As Sarah Palin might say, I “refudiate” everything Senator Sanders stands for. Read why on the next page.