‘Berner’ marches for her man

Bernie Sanders:

Money Raised in Georgia: $229,039*

Total Contributions: 2,894*

Number of Offices/Paid Staff: N/A

Notable Endorsements: Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry; State Rep. LaDawn Jones, D-Atlanta

Recent Visits: Sanders headlined a rally at Morehouse College in Atlanta on Feb. 16 as part of a tour of historically black colleges.

*Source: Federal Election Commission Reports through Dec. 31, 2015

Angie Eells remembers the moment she believed.

She’d risen before daylight, something she doesn’t like to do. By 6, her Ford Escape hummed along Ga. 15, heading north toward a gymnasium in Columbia, S.C. some three hours away.

Nighttime black made way for morning gray. That hue surrendered to dawn’s rosy blush. The sun rose; so, too, did her spirits. She was embarked on something important.

Just how important became clear when the clinical social worker, part-time newspaper columnist and university teacher from Watkinsville came to the door of the gym at Benedict College.

She stepped through, and found people like herself. People who knew, people who believed. She became a volunteer for Bernie Sanders.

Eells is just one believer among many operating out of Sanders offices across the state, said Daniel Blackman, the Sanders campaign’s Georgia political director. Without them, he said, Sanders could not compete in the Democratic race.

‘Our volunteers have been extremely important and effective,” Blackman said. He credited a “very diverse array” of Sanders volunteers for taking his message into homes, street corners, wherever people linger.

Folks like Eells. “His message immediately spoke to my social worker’s heart,” said Eells, preparing one recent night to take her guy’s message to the wind-swept streets of Athens. “It’s a journey I’m proud to be a part of.”

If idealism has a face, it’s that of a 44-year-old divorced mother of two with a tiny diamond stud implanted on the side of her nose. It flashes nearly as brightly as her eyes when she describes the guy she thinks can deliver us from evil.

She scoffs at the notion that she ought to be a vol for Hillary Clinton, that women should stick together.

“That’s insulting. I am a fierce advocate for other women,” she said. “I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t think she’s practiced courage.”

It takes guts, she said, to tell the truth. Sanders, with his calls for greater financial and social equity, is doing just that, Eells said. “He’s shining a light … on some unpleasant things in our country,” she said.

How can she not help him shine that light?

She chats up would-be voters on the phone. She pins buttons on potential backers on street corners. Nightly, she goes to her laptop to update Bernie social media accounts. She’s a “Berner” — a name she coined for herself and fellow Sanders enthusiasts — and continually urges others to join her.

“There’s no way,” she said, “that I could be standing on the sidelines.”

Eells checked the time. Daylight had faded; Athens opened its neon eyes. Night came like iron, heavy and cold, but so what? In two hours, Widespread Panic was to perform in the Classic Center. Potential voters would be headed to the show. Eells rose from her seat in the lobby of a downtown hotel. She grabbed a fistful of Bernie buttons. She grappled with bumper stickers that she shoved into a bag. She grasped a sign — I Panic For Bernie, it announced — and hoisted it as if were a flag.

The revolving door whooshed. Bernie’s soldier, trailed by an assistant, marched into the night.

“Feel the Berrrrrrrrrrn!” she yodeled. A couple of smiling young women standing outside a bar accepted Bernie buttons and said, sure, they’d probably vote for him.

Eells stopped in the foyer of the Georgia Theatre, where three people hustled to get ready for a show that night.

“Are you a Berner?” Eells asked. Two heads nodded. “Good!” An icy breeze yanked at the curls escaping from under her ski cap as Eells handed out more stuff.

She rounded the corner. A guy on the other side of the street hollered: “Bernie!”

Eells turned on the wattage. “Bernie!” she repeated.

A pudgy guy leaning against a post watched her pass. He wore a black cowboy hat, black coat, black jeans and black boots. He looked like an overweight crow. “Bernie who?” the dark man asked. “Bernie Mac?” Eells smiled, said nothing, and legged on.

Next stop: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop. Against all odds, it was doing a pretty good trade. “Are you Berners?” A kid working behind the counter nodded. “We already were.”

And so it went — a button here, a sticker there, a smile every place. Eells wound up her frozen jaunt among the Widespread Panic fans. Sure, she felt the cold — but even more, she felt the Bern.

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