Bernie Sanders Fans Think the Unthinkable: Voting for Hillary Clinton
PHILADELPHIA — And just like that, the revolution was over.
On Tuesday, after each state, territory, and something called “Americans Abroad” officially cast their votes at the Democratic National Convention and made Hillary Clinton the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party.
And just as Clinton did for Barack Obama in 2008, Bernie Sanders cast the votes for his home state of Vermont and moved to suspend the rules of the convention, officially bringing the primary election to a close.
But his supporters weren’t all on board. A few minutes after he spoke, hundreds of Sanders delegates marched out of the arena, through the crowded halls, and to the media tent, where they hosted a sit-in to protest a primary system they thought was rigged to nominate Clinton.
Outside the media tent, protesters clamored for the cameras; some silently pressed signs against the glass as others staged impromptu press conferences. One man stood silently with his fist in the air and a black rag tied across his mouth.
“Are you doing interviews?” one reporter asked.
He shook his head no.
In the throng of delegates milling about the exterior, some like Kansas delegate Chris Pumpelly, implored their comrades to accept their fate.
“If you are standing against the party, you are standing with Donald Trump!” he yelled., adding that those who didn’t want to be at the Wells-Fargo center should go home. “Shame on them; they are minimizing the entire process.”
They weren’t the only Sanders backers who were far from ready to vote Clinton. In the arena, Louisiana delegate Ryan Trundle sported a button that read “DNC GFY” (go fuck yourself). He said he will not be voting for Clinton against Trump.
“She just makes really bad decisions and people die all over the place,” Trundle said.
And the California delegation had no dearth of Bernie-related conflict, remaining heavily evacuated nearly a half-hour later. When DNC officials reserved the first few rows of seats for Democratic Party officials and insiders, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Attorney General Kamala Harris, and super-lawyer Gloria Allred, the Sanders supporters balked.
Hours before the roll call, a Clinton surrogate emailed her California delegates about a “ramped up whip operation” the campaign would run on the floor of the convention hall. One Bernie delegate, 22-year-old Shawnee Badger, had a scuffle with one of those whips, when he pushed her off the ledge the group stood on when she tried to stand in front of them.
Jon Schnitzer, a Bernie delegate from California, said the incident underlined his worst fears about party leadership.
“Look, if you want to talk about love and unity and bringing people together—we’re the party for the environment, we’re the party for the people, we’re giving a voice for people who don’t have a voice—can we just do it?” he said.
Others had reached the acceptance stage of grief. Kira Willig, a Sanders delegate from Florida, started to tear up when asked about voting for Clinton rather than Sanders.
“I love him so much,” she wept.
But Florida is a swing state, she added, so she doesn’t have the luxury of voting for anyone other than Clinton.
“I lived through the Bush presidency because of the protest votes for Nader,” she said. “And I am living through the Rick Scott nightmare because the Dems were apathetic about Charlie Crist.”
“This was a hard, hard road to take,” she continued, choking up. “But when you say you’ll do anything for Sen. Sanders and he asks you to do something that you think will be impossible—you don’t really mean it if you don’t actually do it.”
The Daily Beast spoke with other delegates who argued with each other in real time.
“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been under immense pressure to show support for Hillary Clinton,” said Angie Aker of Wisconsin. The moment she was done speaking, Pete Rickman, another Bernie delegate from the Badger State, said that was “nonsense.”
“There’s too much potential here to build the political revolution to be sidetracked by some who would elevate themselves above the broader whole,” Rickman said. “Nearly all 49 of us—we’re following what Senator Sanders told us to do. He’s been unequivocal. To carry forward the political revolution, to broaden it, to deepen it, and to move on his agenda, we need to work to elect Hillary Clinton. There’s not Stop Trump period. There’s Stop Trump comma elect Hillary Clinton.”
That doesn’t mean that they’ll all be happy about it—at least, not right now. That includes Lucy Flores, who nabbed a Bernie endorsement for her unsuccessful Democratic primary bid in Nevada’s 4th Congressional district. She told The Daily Beast that she will vote for Clinton in the fall, but that she shares her fellow Sanders supporters’ grief.
“I’m a lot sadder than I thought I was going to be,” she said.
“You’re going to have a certain amount of people who are going to come on over and support the secretary, and a certain amount of people who are going to take more convincing,” she continued. “And frankly I think that’s okay in our democratic process. Every person who runs, no matter what, needs to earn every last vote.”
The entire process was full of emotional moments. Sanders’ brother, Larry who is a resident of Britain, choked up while reading Bernie’s name for “Americans Abroad.” Hillary Clinton’s lifelong friend Betsy Ebeling also choked back emotion when she announced votes cast for her pal.
“This one’s for you, Hil,” she said.
And there were plenty of unifying moments, like when James Obergefell, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that made gay marriage the law of the land, was handed the microphone to announce Ohio’s vote totals.
“Love trumps hate,” he said, as the crowd roared.
Bernie’s backers weren’t all feeling particularly loving, but they’re getting there.
Contributing: Patricia Murphy