The Bernie Sanders campaign has done something that none of the other 2016 presidential candidates have done yet (to the best of my knowledge). They have opened a campaign office in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, specifically in the city of Staunton. Given that the Shenandoah Valley has unfortunately been treated as a second-class region in many election cycles, I decided to check it out for myself.
Although I couldn’t find their address online, a member of the Staunton City Council gave me their location. And so, on Tuesday, I traveled down to Staunton along with Marc Montoni, the secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia.
Fortunately their office was easy to find with several signs out front and a multitude in their window as well. Two friendly people greeted us: a man and a woman. I spent quite a while speaking to her and discovered that she was a member of the local Augusta County Democratic Party. I didn’t talk as much to the other fellow, but his accent indicated that he was likely originally from somewhere many miles away. While we were there, Will Hammer, the 2014 Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 6th congressional district and a resident of Staunton, stopped by too.
I found that unlike most campaign offices, this one was created and is operated by volunteers and not paid staffers. In addition, the Sanders campaign will soon be opening a more traditional office across the mountain in Charlottesville. However, the Staunton office did have just about everything you’d find in most headquarters: a variety of signs, stickers (both lapel and bumper), position statements, and even a cardboard cutout of Senator Sanders which invited visitors to take selfies. Alas, they had no buttons. In the back, they had a schedule for events such as hosting a parade, debate watching, and phone calling.
As I mentioned to the volunteers, although I strongly disagree with many of Senator Sanders’ self-described socialist domestic policies, there are some positive aspects to him as well, such as his opposition to government spying with the liberty killing Patriot Act and not wishing to embroil the nation in additional overseas conflicts.
Would I prefer Sanders over Hillary Clinton? Probably. For all his concerning issues, Sanders seems a heck of a lot more trustworthy than Clinton. Will that translate to me voting in the Democratic primary? Possibly. With Senator Paul out of the race, quite a few liberty-minded folks no longer care who wins the GOP nomination. Fortunately, until party registration passes, Virginians have the liberty to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries (though, in an effort to quell freedom of speech and association, as of 2014 the Virginia GOP will expel any of their members who are discovered to have voted in a Democratic nomination contest).
Regardless of how things shake out, it was good to interact with the volunteers at the Sanders headquarters because they didn’t act like the traditional political establishment and were people who seemed genuinely enthusiastic about their candidate, a feeling that has been hard for me to rekindle since the retirement of Dr. Ron Paul.
Anyway, if you find yourself in the Staunton area and are interested in politics, stop by the Bernie Sanders office on Lewis Street and say hello. Or you can find their group on Facebook.