After months of criticism for the lack of debates, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz finally announced yesterday the DNC was adding a last-minute town hall one week before the Iowa caucuses, a format Bernie Sanders can work to his advantage.
The event will be held at Drake University, where Fusion sponsored an unofficial forum where all three candidates appeared separately to discuss their campaign issues. The Fusion forum was not televised, but it was live streamed.
Monday’s town hall is an event that will be televised exclusively by CNN and moderated by Chris Cuomo. Interestingly, Cuomo is the brother of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who has come out in support of Hillary Clinton. Chris Cuomo has been criticized during the primary season for appearing to favor Clinton over her closest rival, Bernie Sanders although he has not publicly endorsed any candidate thus far.
The town hall format is unique in that all three Democratic candidates will engage with members of the audience instead of taking questions from the moderator.
In a tweet on Thursday, Cuomo called the town hall a “true test” of each candidate’s ability to connect with potential voters.
It is a town hall. Candidates must engage directly with voters in turn. Real Iowans with real concerns. True test https://t.co/S5LCaHUjRY— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) January 21, 2016
The town hall format could work in Bernie Sanders’s favor, as he performs best when he can connect directly with people rather than being separated by a large stage. The proof of his ability to connect with voters on a personal level comes in many forms.
Last autumn during a town hall meeting in Fairfax, Virginia, a young Muslim woman expressed concern over the rising anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. Sanders invited her on stage, gave her a hug and told her he’d do everything in his power to fight Islamophobia.
“Let me be very personal if I might. I’m Jewish, my father’s family died in concentration camps. I will do everything that I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism that has existed for far too many years.”
Before his appearance on January 2 in Worcester, MA, Bernie spent nearly ten minutes going down a long line of people waiting to hear him speak. Sanders greeted everyone, shaking their hands and thanking them for coming before heading inside. At one point, a woman ran to him and he greeted her like an old friend with a hug.
And on January 17, just prior to the Charleston debate in South Carolina, Bernie Sanders marched with protesters and spoke with a bullhorn in support of a $15 minimum wage increase.
On January 18, the day after the Charleston debate, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley marched in the MLK Unity March. Although all three Democratic candidates spoke at the event after the march, Hillary Clinton was notably absent from the march itself. A video of the pre-event set-up shows Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, mingling with other participants, including leading African-American Democratic leader Nina Turner and rapper Killer Mike.
Bernie also participated in a roundtable discussion on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy on Sunday afternoon prior to the debate. The discussion included Nina Turner, Killer Mike, and Dr. Cornel West.
Sanders doesn’t just speak in platitudes, he gets his hands dirty fighting for the principles he believes in. This willingness to be a part of the movement and not simply the leader of it, is part of his appeal. Instead of simply preaching what must be changed, he acts upon the need. With millennials, this is perhaps the most attractive part of Bernie Sanders: He sees himself as just one thread in the intricately woven fabric of the nation.
Bernie’s May 2015 interview with Rolling Stone magazine (published in November) highlighted his concern for humanity, which drives his political philosophy. When asked if he believes in God, he said yes. What he said next was even more significant. Instead of expounding on the virtues of God and religion, Bernie Sanders instead discussed how interconnected we all are.
“I’m not into organized religion. But I believe that what impacts you impacts me, that we are all united in one way or another. When children go hungry, I get impacted. When kids die because they can’t afford medicine, I get impacted. We are one world and one people. And that belief leads me to the conclusion that we just cannot turn our back on human suffering.”
The opportunity to get personal with voters is where Bernie Sanders can win and win big. And this is why a town hall is the perfect format. He can showcase his campaign platform and talk one-on-one with potential voters who will have the chance to judge for themselves just who the candidates are working for.
Watch Bernie Sanders at the Iowa town hall on Monday, January 25 from 9pm to 11pm Eastern Time on CNN.
[Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty]