This weekend in Bed-Stuy, a white man on his bike took the time to stop and shout “HILLARY IS OLIGARCHY” when he saw some women and children of color holding signs supporting her.
This is the kind of unsolicited insight Hillary supporters in Brooklyn get every day. A few days before the New York primary, it can seem like Bernie Sanders is the only candidate anyone’s talking about (at least positively) in Brooklyn. Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear both played rallies for him, appearing alongside celebrities like Danny DeVito, Spike Lee, and Tim Robbins. You see his signs poking out of apartment windows, and somehow, against your better judgment, end up reading very long Facebook posts about his obvious superiority from pretty much all of your marginal Facebook friends (coincidentally, all male).
In truth, Bernie Sanders is far from having things sewn up: FiveThirtyEight’s poll of polls currently gives Hillary Clinton a 98 percent chance of adding New York to the 20 states she’s already won (her opponent has 16). So why is everyone talking about Sanders all the time?
This question was on the mind of comedian and filmmaker Heather Fink as she slogged her way through a particularly rough day a few weeks ago.
“I was at my parents’ house, helping with my dad,” who is paralyzed following a stroke, “doing laundry, getting berated by a Bernie bro, and I was perioding really hard—all of these things were happening at once,” she told me. In the midst of this, she checked her email and saw that day’s Flavorpill newsletter, which included in its headline a pro-Sanders event called Bern NY Bern.
Fink, who’s a Hillary Clinton supporter, was fed up. “I’m just so sick of Brooklyn having one fucking voice,” she said. “There’s other people here that have other feelings.”
So, she Tweeted at them.
“I was like, fuck! There are no cool Hillary events,” Fink said. So, she decided to make one. By that night, she’d already mostly organized it and given it a name: Chillary. The gif came a few days later.
— Heather Fink (@heatherfink) April 8, 2016
Chillary, a free event more rally than fundraiser, attracted more than 100 people, many of them young and idealistic and dressed stylishly in black leather jackets. They gathered in the back room of Bushwick bar Gold Sounds for a comedy show and dance party which began just a bit after midnight and was scheduled to run until 4am. Fink hosted the show, despite not having done stand up in six years. It was important to her for Hillary supporters to have somewhere to share each other’s company, and not have to “whisper our opinions in a corner,” as Rachel Coleman, one of the night’s performers, put it. It was also important that it be a time when people could actually attend.
“One of the coolest thing about Hillary supporters is that we all have jobs,” Fink said near the top of her set, contrasting Chillary with Sanders rallies like last week’s Washington Square Park event, which began filling up in the middle of a weekday afternoon (Fink herself is a sound operator for film and television).
“I can’t think of a better way for this Hillary event to start than for a man to get up here and explain feminism to you,” said Liam McEneany, the night’s first comic. “Pretend it’s Facebook.”
The night included sets from nearly a dozen comics, all of them trying to explain their Hillary support a bit self-consciously and with a note of apology. Many in attendance shared this kind of ambivalence –a sense of being torn between two good options. Supporting Hillary, “shows my age like no laugh lines could,” said one. Another said from stage that she wasn’t a huge Hillary supporter, while a third explained that if Obama were running for a third term, he’d be backing him instead.
There was some sniping at Bernie supporters, of course. “Before you vote for him, know who his running mate is, other than a dialysis machine,” said one. Another pointed out that while Clinton’s opponents claim not to be sexist, it seems that they’ll vote for literally anyone but a woman: “In 2008, it was the black guy’s turn. Now, it’s like, uh, how about a Jewish socialist!”
Perhaps it was the late hour, but the crowd never really got excited, despite many pleas from the stage. The verdict among the performers was that it was “a weird room,” with the audience not really there to laugh.
What had brought the performers out? I asked Jena Friedman, a former field producer at the Daily Show.
“Heather’s a friend, and asked me to do it,” she said. “I got roped into doing a Bernie fundraiser in LA, too, and I didn’t even know it was one,” It took place at the Ace Hotel in LA, and showed the stylish, big-money backing Sanders supporters are always claiming is more common in the Clinton world. “It was very fancy—I don’t smoke weed, but they had artisanal weed chocolates, and a thousand people were there,” Friedman said.
But was she a Hillary supporter? “I support Hillary. I’m voting for Hillary,” she said after a long pause. “It’s hard, because I like Bernie, too. I just think she’d be a more effective leader.”
Coleman is a strong Clinton supporter but put her feelings this way: “I love Bernie’s agenda. I just think Hillary will get more of it done.”
Outside the show, in Gold Sounds’ main bar area, the DJ played AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to The Top.” Come Tuesday, one candidate’s road will be just a bit shorter.