Last Tuesday, Democratic Party presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton held rallies in the Riverside area, the former in downtown Riverside, and the latter on UCR’s campus itself. These visits are a huge boost to the image and renown of UCR, as well as of Riverside and the Inland Empire as a whole.
The rallies held in Riverside reflect, in the most pragmatic view, an effort by these candidates to turn out votes. The California primaries are less than two weeks away, so there is certainly an attempt being made to reach out to and inspire voters with heavily publicized events. There are 538 delegates to win, enough to keep Sanders in the race or take him out of it. Thus, each candidate has a lot to win or lose in the primary, which means that they need to reach out and get every vote possible if they want their party’s nomination.
In particular, they are likely trying to tap into the same voter pool that helped elect Barack Obama to the presidency. The Inland Empire has traditionally been a conservative enclave in a highly liberal state, yet in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, voter turnout resulted in Obama sweeping the area. Sanders and Clinton must see that there are active Democrat voters in this district, and in sufficient numbers to overwhelm the Republicans, and they may also seek to sway these conservative voters to their causes. Therefore, the candidates’ common goal of finding every available vote logically takes them to Riverside, which is the hub of a region that has historically been overlooked by Democratic candidates.
Perhaps the biggest reason Clinton and Sanders chose to visit Riverside is because the city is a snapshot of California as a whole. It is not especially wealthy, nor is it plagued with high poverty rates. It is largely white, but with an equally significant Latino population, and various other minorities that might be more likely to support the candidates. Riverside’s diversity is California’s diversity, and since diversity is a cornerstone value of liberals, it is appropriate that these candidates would come to a center that represents this value.
UCR’s importance in these events is especially noteworthy. As a large campus, UCR merited Clinton’s visit on campus because it has many key sources of votes that could go unused: young voters (i.e. millennials), minorities, immigrants (or children of recent immigrants) and people of low socioeconomic status. Similarly, if Riverside is a symbol for California, then UCR is representative of Riverside as a whole. Thus, coming to UCR (or, in Sanders’ case, very close to UCR; appearing in downtown Riverside certainly drew in the people who would have visited him if he came to the campus itself) brings the California primary race to a place where the essence of the state is distilled to its purest form.
The ultimate lesson to be picked up here on campus is one of morale. The candidates did not come to Riverside just to condescend to the “UC Rejects;” they came to get support from people they hope to benefit if they get to the White House. Students should know, then, that they are not the bottom of the barrel of California’s public university system. Rather, they should be proud that they played host (even if somewhat indirectly for Sanders) to two people, one of whom could very well be leading the nation in just eight months, because these candidates saw fit to center one of their few stops in this state here ⸺ not in the capital, not at UCSD or UCSB or some other, “reputable” school, but at good, old UCR.
No matter how the election ends, or who wins the primary, Clinton and Sanders have already left their mark on UCR and the Inland Empire as a whole with their visits, which could mark the first step on the road toward expanding Southern California’s influence in the state.