Momentum and weirdness

Thoughts on Bernie Sanders gaining traction and celebrating Chico’s funky identity

President Obama’s detractors can say what they will about him, but my feeling is that his presidency will be looked on favorably by historians and future generations of Americans.

During his last State of the Union Address Tuesday evening, the president was bold, but not bombastic, which is a nice change of pace from what we’ve seen in recent months from those who presume they have what it takes to replace him. In fact, Obama fired back at his would-be successors, saying, among other things, that anyone “claiming America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.” That’s true. The numbers back him up.

I could go on and on about his address, but what dawned on me while I was watching him speak is how he seemed to come from out of nowhere in 2007 and a year later went on to clinch the Democratic nomination from the grasp of Hillary Clinton. That he’s nearing the end of eight years at the White House is almost unfathomable.

The question in the coming weeks is whether Bernie Sanders can do the same thing. Sanders has an energized base, including, like Obama in 2008, many young people. The Vermont senator’s messages, particularly his taking on Wall Street, are resonating with them. That’s happening despite Sanders being old enough to be their grandfather (he’s 74). As I said last week in this space, I believe it’s because he is authentic. That’s hard to fake. Ask Clinton or any of the Republicans vying for the GOP nomination.

According to new polls, Sanders is widening his lead in New Hampshire and has pulled ahead in Iowa. That doesn’t mean he’ll come out victorious, but momentum is building and it’s building fast.

In other news, tickets for our third annual Keep Chico Weird Talent Show are now on sale. Consider this your early warning. The popular event sold out days in advance last year. When I showed up to the El Rey Theatre on Second Street before its doors opened last year, there was a line down the street and around the corner, stretching all the way to Celestino’s. Literally hundreds of people were turned away.

For those unfamiliar with the Keep Chico Weird show—and the accompanying art show at 1078 Gallery—it’s CN&R’s now-annual celebration of our fair town’s quirky people and cultural identity.

There are Keep [insert name of town] Weird movements in other cities around the country, namely Austin, Texas, which adopted the motto many years ago in support of that metropolitan city’s small-business community.

Here in Chico, we have another take on it. If you’re a regular reader, you know that week in and week out this newspaper celebrates Chico’s offbeat characters, art-makers and out-of-the-box thinkers. We also promote diversity and tolerance—the central messages of our Keep Chico Weird events and common themes on our op-ed pages.

We hope to see you at the 1078 Gallery on Jan. 28 and at the El Rey on Jan. 30.