Bernie Sanders boosters packed an Alphabet City bar to the brim Wednesday night, throwing a Valentine’s Day fundraiser following the Vermont socialist’s sweep of the New Hampshire primary the night before.
“This year we fell in love — with Bernie Sanders,” Babes for Bernie, a Brooklyn-based group of women who endorse the candidate, proclaimed on its Facebook page for the Bernin’ Love event at Elvis Guesthouse on Avenue A.
The fundraiser included a date auction and dance party, attracting both single New Yorkers and couples, most under 35, the idealistic demographic that has proved Sanders’ stronghold — and a challenge for his rival Hillary Clinton.
Sanders’ popularity among youth and women drew a controversial statement from feminist icon Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms. magazine, who said last week Millennial ladies are flocking to Sanders camp because it’s “where the boys are.”
Many female Sanders’ fans felt irked that their heartfelt political views had been dismissed merely as a way to get laid. Although Steinem apologized, the statement was fodder for Babes for Bernie humor — and served as the premise of the date auction.
“Bernie has got such a great sense of humor. Hillary’s campaign just doesn’t,” said Babes for Bernie founder Kathleen Graves, explaining that the “tongue and cheek” theme of the auction followed the funny-man vibe of the Vermont senator.
Graves added that movement among Millenials for Sanders transcended allegiances to gender.
“You don’t vote for a gender, you vote for a person,” Graves said.
Other women in attendance were far more blunt in their rejection of Clinton, a Democratic establishment candidate whom pundits had assumed had the nomination locked down. Even his most ardent supporters didn’t expect Sanders, who announced his candidacy in April, to make such a successful challenge to Clinton’s campaign.
“I think Bernie’s a feminist,” proclaimed Rachel Flores, 32, who says she backs the candidate wholeheartedly, endorsing his plans to reduce student debt and economic inequality. She views the former first lady, New York senator and Secretary of State as the more conservative candidate.
“Hillary Clinton serves the needs of men,” Flores added.
Economic inequality and a range of other issues were what had brought the young men and women out Wednesday, paying an $8 dollar cover, buying Bernie merchandise and a speciality cocktail.
“I think he has the ability to do something about climate change before it’s too late,” said Joe Beuerlein, 33, a Brookly-based actor who founded the Men Who Bern Instagram account, which features hunky dudes who would like to see a democratic socialist in the White House.
Catching up with rights enjoyed in the rest of the world motivated one couple there, Lisa Saloukvadze, 21 and her boyfriend, Michael Tarzia, 26, to attend. Both Saloukvadze and Tarzia grew up in Australia, a place where free healthcare and cheap education are assumed to be rights. They said that Clinton was too close to the richest in America, people to whom they couldn’t relate.
“I’m part of the 99 percent,” Saloukvadze said. “I’ll never be a billionaire.”