Bernie Supports GOP Debate Protesters in Detroit

by Seth Millstein

Demonstrators have surrounded the venue of the 11th Republican debate in an attempt to shut it down, and Bernie Sanders tweeted his support of the massive protest. Hours before the GOP debate began, protesters arrived outside of the Fox Theatre in Detroit, reportedly crossing police lines and blocking the entrance to the debate, and Sanders clearly took notice.

"Change happens from the bottom up," Sanders tweeted, along with a video of the protesters making a stand in snowy Detroit. "Keep fighting, sisters and brothers." It's not too surprising that Bernie voiced support for the protesters. On the most obvious level, they are protesting the Republican presidential candidates, and Bernie is a Democratic presidential candidate.

More specifically, though, these demonstrators are demanding a lot of the same things as Sanders. Most notably, several of them had signs promoting a $15-per-hour minimum wage, which has been a pet issue for Sanders throughout this campaign. They're also holding up "Flint Lives Matter" signs, a reference to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's disgraceful handling of the state's water crisis. Many people have called for Snyder's resignation in the wake of the crisis, and one of those people is Bernie Sanders. And several of the demonstrators were there specifically to protest Donald Trump, and needless to say, Sanders ain't a Trump fan.

It's highly unlikely — although, I suppose, not entirely impossible — that the protesters will actually force the cancellation of the Republican debate. However, that doesn't mean they won't have any impact at all. Regardless of whether you're a Democrat or Republican, it looks pretty awful to have crowds of people protesting your entire party right before a high-profile debate.

Furthermore, the protesters' presence will put pressure the Republican candidates to do something they've steadfastly avoided doing so far: condemn Synder for his negligence in the crisis. To be sure, it was unlikely any of them would do that before the protesters showed up, and it's equally unlikely now. However, the fact that residents of the are drawing attention to this crucial issue in a very visible way just before the debate highlights the Republican candidates' position on this. That position is essentially, "go easy on Governor Snyder, he's a Republican!" I'm no prophet, but I suspect that won't be a winning message in the general election.