LOS ANGELES -- Fresh off the Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders hit a pair of fundraisers out here Wednesday that were both remarkable in their own right.
At a low-dollar event held at the hipster Avalon nightclub in Hollywood, comedian Seth McFarlane offered a self-deprecating defense of democratic socialism, the guiding philosophy of the senator from Vermont.
Shortly afterward, Sanders was whisked to a posh home in Beverly Hills where entertainment was provided poolside by America, the band best known for 1970s hits like “Ventura Highway” and “Sister Golden Hair.” Sanders joked that it was great to be speaking at a “proletariat” home.
The fundraisers -- which followed a taping of “Ellen” set for broadcast Thursday -- were only the eighth and ninth traditional fundraisers Sanders has held since launching his bid for the Democratic nomination. He has raised the vast majority of his cash online from small-dollar contributors, raking in enough money to nearly match Hillary Rodham Clinton’s haul last quarter.
About 1,100 people, who paid $25 apiece, packed the Avalon to see Sanders late Wednesday afternoon.
He offered his usual stump speech, railing against the political influence of the “billionaire class” and rattling off a list of liberal policy prescriptions for the country, including raising the minimum wage, moving to a single-payer health-care system and guaranteeing paid medical and family leave for workers. As he does elsewhere, Sanders urged the crowd to join his “political revolution.”
McFarlane, the creator of “Family Guy” on television and movies including “Ted,” nearly stole the show, however.
He declared Sanders the winner of Tuesday night’s debate in Las Vegas, pointing to Sanders’s answer that climate change is the nation’s biggest national security threat.
Sanders, McFarlane said, is the only candidate who grasps “the magnitude of the catastrophe” on that issue.
“You all seem perfectly nice,” he told the audience in the darkened theater. “In five years, I don’t want to have to battle you all for water with a sword made out of a rusted selfie stick, because I will win.”
McFarlane soon turned to Sanders’s status as a self-described socialist, another topic that came up in Tuesday night’s debate.
"For years, I have privately thought to myself, alright, I am a capitalist,” McFarlane said. “I like eating at Sugarfish (a trendy sushi restaurant). I like drinking Fiji water. I like going on Amazon.com on my phone, and then sitting up two hours later and $6,000 later. … But doesn’t it seem things have swung so far in one direction, with the top 1 percent of the country controlling more wealth than the other 99 percent combined, that just a little bit of democratic socialism may not be the worst idea?”
“It’s like cooking,” McFarlane continued. “And I know, because cooking is personally something I have seen done a few times in my life. If the soup gets too watery, you add salt. If it’s too salty, you add water. It’s a time to add a little bit of water, I think.”
Sanders was in nearby Beverly Hills about two hours later, at an event attended by about 300 people, some no doubt members of the millionaire class if not the billionaire class.
The hosts for the evening were Syd and Linda Leibovitch, a couple with a reputation for helping high-profile Democrats raise money in increments larger than the average contribution of $30 that Sanders touts. Photos of Bill Clinton and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) were among those visible on a table near the door through which guests entered after dropping off their cars with the valet.
The minimum contribution for the night was $250, with some attendees giving up to the legal maximum of $2,700, according to Sanders aides. The event raised around $150,000, they said.
Sanders gave a truncated version of his stump speech, clocking in at closer to 20 minutes than an hour, but his message was no different than when addressing other audiences.
“The truth is there are many people in this country who have money but also believe in social justice,” Sanders said at the outset of his remarks, to guests in the back yard seated on pool and patio furniture, white wooden chairs brought in for the event and blankets.
He drew hearty applause as he delivered familiar lines such as “You are living in a nation which has the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any country on earth” and “I do not represent the interests of the billionaire class or corporate America.”
Sanders also touched on his plans to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities, paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation; to fix the “broken” criminal justice system; and to address the spiraling cost of prescription drugs.
The 74-year-old senator spent limited time mingling. He arrived from the Avalon about 15 minutes before his remarks and posed for some pictures. After he was done speaking, he left within about 10 minutes, as America played a few more of its classics, including, “You Can Do Magic,” which the band dedicated to Sanders.