Local independent bookstores bring Sen. Bernie Sanders to Zellerbach Hall

Bernie Sanders speaks at a press conference on campus June 3. On Dec. 2, Sanders spoke at Zellerbach Hall while promoting his new book, "Our Revolution."
Audrey McNamara/File
Bernie Sanders speaks at a press conference on campus June 3. On Dec. 2, Sanders spoke at Zellerbach Hall while promoting his new book, "Our Revolution."

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Wearing a sweater over a button-down shirt, pleated pants and shiny brown leather shoes, former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders stood at the podium in Zellerbach Hall on Friday afternoon.

Sanders spoke about his new book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In,” in a lecture that was part motivational speech and part office hours. Two independent bookstores, Mrs. Dalloway’s of Berkeley and Diesel, A Bookstore of Oakland, had both been interested in having Sanders come to speak about his book, and decided to reach out to the book’s publisher together.

“I want to talk a little bit about the book, but I suspect there are one or two other things on your minds as well,” Sanders said to the crowd, after having been introduced by Robert Reich, UC Berkeley chancellor’s professor of public policy and Sanders supporter. The crowd laughed in response.

Sanders began by reminding the audience that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by more than 2 million votes and that polls show that the American people prefer a progressive agenda. He said the disparity in votes called Trump’s mandate into question.

Sanders spoke of what he called the progressive agenda, which includes free public higher education, campaign finance reform and supporting the middle and working classes. He emphasized that there would be “no compromise” on issues of bigotry, climate change and democracy.

Sanders said one reason Trump won the election was that the majority of his supporters responded to his promise to take on the establishment. Sanders said that he has little hope that Trump will keep the promises that he made to his supporters.

“Now, we are Berkeley,” Reich had said. “We are respectful. And we are certainly respectful of everybody who, for one reason or another, might have voted for Donald Trump. But that doesn’t mean we have to be respectful of what he represents.”

Sanders said The sees the results of the election as a defeat for the Democratic Party.

Recently elected member of the Rent Stabilization Board Leah Simon-Weisberg was endorsed by Sanders as part of the CALI Slate. She said she wanted to hear about Sanders’ ideas on resisting a conservative shift in national politics.

Sanders said the Democratic Party must think beyond what mainstream politics defines as options.

“Our job is to understand that today as we sit here in Berkeley, there are people hurting and hurting very badly and we will not turn our backs on those people,” Sanders said.

Sanders also emphasized the importance of the media both in this election and for democracy in general when asked a question about fake news.

The last chapter of his book is titled “Corporate Media and the Threat to Our Democracy,” which he recommended skipping to if a reader was getting bored in the middle. He said a majority of the coverage of the 2016 campaign was about personality rather than issues.

Local musicians Avram Siegel and Blaine Sprouse played bluegrass tunes before Reich’s introduction. They have played music together for several years and are regular performers at Diesel.

Alison Reid, an owner of Diesel, said she hadn’t slept much since she began organizing the event about two months ago.

According to Ann Leyhe, an owner of Mrs. Dalloway’s, the event’s 1,978 tickets sold out within four days.

“They said we should take the Greek (Theater),” Reid said. “I think we could have.”

Contact Aleah Jennings-Newhouse at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ajn_dc.