Eight years ago, 10,000 people packed Boston Common to see then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. On Saturday, twice that number turned out at the Boston Convention Center to hear Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speak.
Sanders’s crowd was the largest in the modern history of presidential primary fights in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe, although it was only his third largest crowd of the campaign. Here’s what it looked like:
Let me just make sure you take this in: TWICE AS MANY PEOPLE CAME TO SEE BERNIE SANDERS ON A CHILLY OCTOBER DAY IN 2015 THAN DID THE SAME FOR BARACK OBAMA IN 2007.
That’s stunning — even given Sanders’s demonstrated ability to bring in big crowds throughout the early period of the campaign. And yet, by and large, the crowd size at Sanders’s rally wasn’t seen as a massive story by mainstream media outlets.
Before you conspiracy theorists get started with the whole “the corporate media wants Hillary Clinton to be the nominee” thing, I think there are a few less zany reasons for the relative dearth of coverage. (Sidebar: The Boston Globe went all in on the Sanders’s rally; they live-blogged it and wrote a big story on the crowd. Also worth noting that “Morning Joe” led with the Sanders’s crowd story on Monday.)
1. Sanders has demonstrated that he can draw big crowds before. So, the “newness” of that narrative had faded somewhat.
2. It remains to be seen whether Sanders’s can translate big crowds into actual votes. I’ve grappled with how much his crowd size means — if anything — in this space before and still don’t have a definitive answer on that.
3. It was a very busy weekend in presidential politics. Donald Trump was (as always) all over the Sunday talk shows and Republicans in Congress were (and are) in the midst of a reckoning with their conservative wing.
4. You can easily drive from Vermont to Boston. So, this is a sort-of home game for Sanders.
But, but, but …
What I think we know is that massive crowds at a political rally are a decent metric for organic passion. And organic passion is the most important and valuable commodity in politics. The fact that Sanders was able to put 20,000 Boston butts in seats matters in a race that has been defined to date by the lack of energy for Clinton’s frontrunning candidacy.
I’m not saying that Sanders’s ability to pack the Boston Convention Center means he will be the Democratic nominee in 2016. But it does tell us thatsomething is going on out in the country. Something we should be paying more, not less, attention to.