Sanders Surrogates Back Clinton, But Grassroots Remain Opposed
Many Bernie supporters refuse to vote for Clinton, say they'll back Green Party candidate
Rep. Raul Grijalva, one of the few congressmen to support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, opened his remarks at the Democratic National Convention with a simple statement:
“I stand here in support of Hillary Clinton.”
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, another Sanders backer, told delegates, “We must be united in this battle.”
But the message didn’t seem to resonate, at least not with all the delegates.
When Merkley said Sanders and Clinton supporters alike need to elect Clinton and her running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, he was met with audible boos from the Sanders delegates amid cheers from the Clinton supporters.
The loudest applause came when Merkley referenced Sanders’ contributions.
“We owe an enormous debt to Bernie Sanders,” he said, adding that the Vermont senator’s “leadership on progressive issues, his willingness to stand up to the powers to be” have galvanized a grassroots movement that will last beyond November.
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Sanders delegate Karl Keene of Minnesota agreed that the movement will be a lasting one.
“You’ll see a rise of a new party that will be truly progressive, and it will be the majority of Americans,” he said.
The Democratic establishment is “blinded by their arrogance,” Keene said.
“If they try to show a picture of unity, it’s not there,” he added. “It won’t be reflected in the polls. They’ve done everything to give the middle finger to the progressive wing of the party, especially the pick of Tim Kaine.”
Many Sanders supporters won’t vote for Clinton but instead will cast their ballots for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Keene said. It doesn’t matter that Sanders has urged them to back Clinton. He and others was particularly angry about emails released late last week that suggested Democratic party leaders favored Clinton.
“When he tried to encourage us to support Hillary, the place erupted in boos and chants of ‘Hillary, hell no,’” Keen said, referring to a Sanders rally early Monday . “Back home, people have told me that they’ll never vote for Hillary. They’re so upset, especially since the email stuff came out.”
Another Minnesota Sanders delegate, who requested anonymity, said she hopes progressives will support Clinton in an effort to defeat Trump but that if that occurs, it won’t be because they’re following the lead of their elected officials.
“I think the Sanders’ supporters are so independent in the way that they’re not following the party, they’re following people,” she said. “I think the people have spoken and a lot of them don’t want to support Hillary.”
Outside the convention hall, Sanders supporters from throughout the country gathered to protest the party’s attempt to get progressives to unify behind Clinton and to support the Sanders delegates that are continuing to back him.
“We want them to know we’re out here,” said Leisa Duncker, of Florida, who was sporting blue Sanders earrings and a pink Bernie shirt.
Duncker said she came to Philadelphia for “the one in a million chance super delegates will come to their sense and make Bernie the nominee.”
If that doesn’t happen, Duncker plans to vote for Stein in November, regardless of whether that helps Trump win.
“I am tired of voting based on people putting fear in our hearts. Not much difference between [Clinton] and Donald Trump,” she said.
Annie Gramson, 53, of Chappaqua, NY, where Clinton lives, also said she is for Stein and isn’t worried about throwing her vote to Trump — nor would she be, even if she lived in a red state.
“The important thing is to be free of the Clinton machine,” she said.
But not all Sanders supporters are inclined to vote against Clinton.
“She’s the lesser of two evils,” said Tom Estabrook, 59, of Somerville, Mass. He said he will vote for Clinton despite being “repulsed” by her.
Estabrook lamented the “subversion of democracy by the DNC,” and argued that there are many states that Hillary won that Bernie really should have won if there hadn’t been what he called “election fraud.”
Ted Kohlman, 29, of New York City said the leaked DNC emails showed what Sanders supporters had always expected — that the party machine was pushing for Clinton to win — and that was what helped him decide to come to Philadelphia to protest.
He pointed to the lack of Clinton supporters defending the leaked email fiasco, saying, “Where are the Hillary Clinton supporters in all this?”