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Sanders, and a Bird, Become Twitter Gold

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally, March 23, 2016 at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, California.Photograph by Robyn Beck — AFP via Getty Images

It was a moment that captured what Bernie Sanders’ supporters love about the irascible, plain-spoken candidate. It also, it turns out, showed what people love about Twitter.

On Friday, at a rally in Portland, Oregon, Sanders was in the middle of a stump speech when a small bird touched down on the stage, then on his podium. The bird was seemingly unperturbed by the typically raucous Sanders crowd, and perched nonchalantly for a few moments before flittering off.

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The candidate’s rumpled befuddlement, followed by wide-eyed amazement and broad smile, were exactly the sort of authenticity Sanders partisans seem to covet. And the bird, though its species is still unclear, was obviously a humble sort—among the 99% of birds, if you will.

As Sanders himself put it, “I think there may be some symbolism here.”

Supporters immediately took to Twitter to spell that symbolism out, creating the hashtag #birdiesanders and a still-growing collection of graphics and memes. Most amplified the good-natured warmth of the moment:



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Some tweets, though, took the opportunity to draw contrasts with Sanders’ competition, most notably Republican front runner Donald Trump and Democratic competitor Hillary Clinton.



Others went a little more absurdist:


#BirdieSanders was as much a win for Twitter (TWTR) as for Sanders. It’s the kind of moment CEO Jack Dorsey was talking about when he put ‘liveness’ at the center of the company’s ongoing push for user growth. It was Twitter users, far more than the media, who transformed a brief encounter into something bigger.

The bird does seem to have been a good omen for the candidate. On Saturday, Sanders went on to earn nearly 73% of the Democratic primary vote in Washington, and similarly dominant victories in Alaska and Hawaii. Though his path to the nomination is steep, this is, it seems, a campaign with wings.