Bernie Sanders Was At Coachella (Kind Of), And The Reason Makes Total Sense

In a somewhat surprising but not totally surprising development, Bernie Sanders was at Coachella this year. Well, sort of: The Vermont senator and presidential candidate appeared over video to introduce the hip-hop group Run The Jewels on Saturday. It wasn't entirely out of nowhere, because one of Run The Jewels' members is rapper and activist Killer Mike, and Mike has been one of Sanders' most prominent surrogates of the campaign.

"One of the highlights off running for president over the course of this last year has been getting to know Killer Mike," Sanders said in the video message. "His depth of passion, his knowledge and commitment to community, is an inspiration to me, and I value his friendship immensely."

Is it a stretch to read into the political implications of this? Not necessarily. There is a political play here, which Sanders hinted at in the introduction when he said that "the least I could do for [Run the Jewels] was help you out by bringing a few young people together."

Coachella is, of course, dominated by young people, and young voters are one of Sanders' largest blocs of support. What's more, the festival itself takes place in California, and the California primary is a must-win for Bernie if he wants to chip into Hillary Clinton's delegate lead and win the Democratic nomination.

In addition, Run the Jewels isn't just some arbitrary rap group that happens to support Sanders. Killer Mike is an outspoken political activist as well as a musician, and the subjects he focuses on — police brutality and systemic racism — have emerged as key issues in the Democratic primary.

As such, Sanders' featured role at Coachella could be seen as him shoring up his base in a crucial primary state (California is worth more delegates than anywhere else in the country). It might not have been entirely necessary: Generally speaking, Bernie supporters are wildly dedicated to their candidate, and it seems unlikely that too many of them would stay home out of laziness on primary day.

Still, every little bit counts. Polls show Hillary Clinton leading Sanders by an average of 10 points in California, and while that's certainly not an insurmountable lead, it will be a steep challenge for Sanders to overtake her. From this perspective, Sanders' introduction of Killer Mike at Coachella makes political sense — but still, it's always surprising to see a 74-year-old senator make a cameo at a music festival.