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Bernie Sanders' House Parties Expected to Draw Tens of Thousands

Politics

With recent polls showing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders closing the gap with rival Hillary Clinton and out-polling all of the GOP's leading candidates, progressives nationwide will host coordinated house parties on Wednesday to further fuel the fire of enthusiasm for the self-described democratic socialist.

On July 29, Sanders will address thousands of supporters live via streaming video from a home in Washington, DC. According to his campaign, more than 82,000 people have indicated that they plan to attend one of the more than 3,000 simultaneous local organizing meetings.

"We have a technology available to us that Barack Obama and Howard Dean did not have," the U.S. senator from Vermont said in an interview with the New York Times' First Draft. "And the idea that I can simultaneously be speaking to people located in 1,000 different places is pretty, pretty exciting." The candidate’s address will be followed by a planning meeting for anyone who wants to stay online and discuss joining his campaign.

In a wide-ranging interview with Vox published Tuesday, Sanders elaborated on this organizing strategy.

"I often make the joke, although it's not such a joke, that if we can spend half of the time in this country talking about why the middle class is collapsing, as opposed to football or baseball, we would revolutionize what's going on in America," Sanders told Vox.

"I want that discussion. I want to know why the rich get richer and everybody else gets poorer. I want to know why the United States is the only major country on Earth that doesn't provide health care to all of its people, the only major country that doesn't have family and medical leave so that women can stay home with their kids when they have a baby. Those are the questions we should be discussing."

His campaign bills the event as a chance to "begin to build the organization that will take this country back from the billionaire class." And while Sanders agrees that Wednesday's house parties offer the opportunity to establish "a grassroots movement of millions and millions of people," his goals go beyond his own political ambitions.

"We hope to have tens of thousands of people coming together to determine how they can develop movements in their local community," he said earlier this month. "This campaign is not simply about electing me, I hope we accomplish that, but that ain’t the most important thing. The most important thing is building a political movement in which millions of people who have given up on the political process, including a lot of young people, get involved."

The house parties will build on the energy and turnout Sanders continues to generate at rallies nationwide.

Over the weekend, Sanders brought his populist message to more than 4,500 people at the  Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, Louisiana. According to the New Orleans Advocate, the crowd was about four times larger as the roughly 1,000 people who came out to see Gov. Bobby Jindal when he announced he was running for president at the same venue in June.

"Some people told me Louisiana was a conservative state—guess not!" Sanders began his address. "I think my colleagues in the Democratic party have made a very serious mistake, and that is they have written off half of America, including Louisiana. And I'm here to tell you the time is now to fight for 50 states in the country."

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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