Bernie Sanders supporters: "Trump would be a terrible force to unleash on the Irish"

Newstalk's Richard Chambers feels the Bern in California

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Image: Rich Pedroncelli / AP/Press Association Images

It's Bernie or bust for hundreds of thousands of lefties in California, where Bernie Sanders is readying himself for his last stand against Hillary Clinton. 

Senator Sanders is facing elimination from the US Presidential process, but is now hanging his hopes on the fervour of Californians in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles to turn up the pressure on the Democrats' super delegates to legitimise his claim to be the best person to challenge Donald Trump in November. 

If dedication is what's needed to oust Clinton as the presumptive nominee, there was plenty of it on display in Oakland on Monday. Over 25,000 queued for 27 blocks just to get in to yet another queue to see Sanders in action.


Feeling the (sun) Bern

None of those in attendance were put off by the heat (unlike this reporter) and in fact, they ratcheted it up on Hillary. 

"Just 'cause she's a woman doesn't mean she gets my vote", said one female voter. "I'll wait for a genuine, real, person like Bernie."

Others struck a more conciliatory note, however: "It's too important. Trump would be a terrible force to unleash on the Irish and the rest of the world," said one man, who admitted he'd begrudgingly vote for Hillary if presented with the 'doomsday scenario' of Clinton vs Trump. Whether or not the lion's share of Bernie supporters do the same could well decide the election.

After gaining admission to the rally itself, it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

Among those who formed the guard of honour was Gus Newport, former Mayor of Berkeley, who pointed to Bernie's record of support for IRA hunger strikers. Stating that he had just returned from Northern Ireland, and was informed that "Bernie Sanders was the only one in the United States Congress to write to Margaret Thatcher asking for peace and resolution to be given to the IRA hunger strikers". 

It's California. It's the Presidential Election. It was only natural that Hollywood glamour would turn up to rally the troops for Bernie. 

This time, those efforts were led by none other than Lethal Weapon's Donald Glover (ask your auld lad). Glover's franchise catchphrase was "I'm getting too old for this s***", and it's entirely possible that 74-year-old Bernie Sanders is feeling (if not openly expressing) that sentiment, as the US approaches decision time.

The grand plan for Bernie is a long shot - Win California and pray the super delegates, who have thus far cemented Clinton's lead over Sanders, decide to switch allegiances.

He rattled off poll after poll, underlining his likability compared to Donald Trump, but the novelty wore off. The Vermont Senator is yet to face the direct fire of a Trump onslaught like his Democratic competitor has. It's difficult to say how he'd fare under such pressure, although one would have to imagine that the 'socialist' brand would be dragged through the mud by the Republicans as November approaches. 

Despite having no clear path to the nomination and, even then, a potentially ugly run at November ahead, perhaps all is not lost for the thousands who've turned out across California in recent days and across the United States over the past year. 

If Hillary Clinton is to outmanoeuvre Donald Trump en route to the White House, she will need the enthusiasm and visibility of these Bernie supporters. She has some way to go to win them over, but a clear effort to reach out to 'Team Sanders', and his platform at the Convention could go some way towards doing that.

Will she take an avowed lefty like Elizabeth Warren on the ticket? Will she target Wall Street greed? Will she call for an expansion of supports for working families? Will she try to capture the same intensity of these Sanders rallies? 

Those are the questions she'll face on the left as the Convention draws near. Will Hillary Clinton feel the Bern? Time will tell, but it could just decide her legacy.