Will Sanders' Supporters Still Try to Disrupt DNC Even After Bernie's Impassioned Speech for Hillary?

Election '16

As the Democratic National Convention’s second day dawned, different factions of Bernie Sanders delegates and supporters were expressing last-minute frustrations and hopes for the night ahead, when Hillary Clinton is slated to be elected the party’s presidential nominee.

On the streets of Philadelphia outside City Hall and the adjacent convention center complex, Sanders supporters clad in buttons and draped with American flags talked about somehow seeing the party’s superdelegates—elected officials and top allies account for one-sixth of all delegates choosing the nominee at the convention—come to their senses and picking Sanders because, they believe, only he can beat Donald Trump this fall.

Inside nearby hotels where state delegations were staying and hosting various constituency forums, an ad hoc alliance called the Bernie Delegates Network told dozens of reporters that they had been blocked by the Democratic National Committee from filing last-minute papers to run a progressive alternative vice-presidential candidate.

“Would he have gotten significant support? Yes,” said California’s Norman Solomon, a Sanders delegate and group coordinator. “Would they have won? No.”

Solomon and other peers, such as Donna Smith from Progressive Democrats of America; Rose Roach of the Minnesota Nurses Association and delegate; and Teva Gabis-Levine, a delegate from New Mexico and leader in that state’s Sanders campaign, all said their ranks had many reasons and desires to make their presence known.

“I believe there has been a political revolution started,” said Smith, who added she has been waiting her whole life for this moment. “It is not something that you squash at a convention… There is change afoot at the convention. The Bernie delegates are part of that change.”

“At the end of the day, it has been about transformational politics, not transactional politics,” said Roach, looking past the blocked alternative vice-presidential bid and turning to those she is representing and seeing on the convention floor, where there is a mix of hope and grief.

“A nurse from Chicago posted on her Facebook page last night, ‘I get it. I’m not new to the political process. But I put a year of my life into this man, into this campaign. Don’t tell me not to feel it. Let me process. Give me time,’” Roach recounted, giving but one example. “We get to grieve for a while, but we also have work to do.”

Solomon told reporters in the room that the media were wrong to get upset at noisy delegates who were protesting on the convention floor and at the throngs in the streets.

“Why are these people disrupting?” he asked, rhetorically. “We’re supposed to unify behind complacency? When so many Americans are dying from inadequate health-care coverage… Where is the outrage that the health-care system is based on profit?”

Solomon said he personally was feeling “redirected pragmatism” in this moment. He said Sanders gave a good speech last night in which he laid out why a Clinton victory is their best hope for moving their agenda forward, while a Trump victory would roll it backward.

But he called the cheery speeches from the podium “crack-pot realism,” because, he said, the party doesn’t have a serious enough plan to address many key issues, such as climate change, and will still embrace the Pentagon war machine. He said Sanders’ message yesterday was, “We have to keep on going—it’s a mix of idealism and pragmatism.”

And so it appears that the Sanders delegates will continue to yell, chant and make themselves known on the floor on Tuesday night and in the days ahead. When Sanders sent a tweet at 3 PM yesterday to state floor whips, New Mexico’s Teva Gabis-Levine said he decided not to share it with his delegation. That decision is a perfect reflection of the sentiment here.

“I chose not to pass that along,” Gabis-Levine said. “I am looking the other way and allowing them to express themselves.”

That expression takes many forms. Groups like National Nurses United and Progressive Democrats of America fought hard to include single payer health care in the platform, but were not successful. On the other hand, the campaign won a commitment to reduce the number of superdelegates by two-thirds for the 2020 election—a reform that will open up the process.

But politics is often a winner-take-all exercise, and being on the team that loses is never easy. When several national media outlets reported early Tuesday that Sanders might be the person to announce the results of the Vermont delegation vote count—all delegates voted yesterday by paper ballot—supporters like Solomon didn’t want to offer reactions to a room full of reporters about the prospect that it might be Sanders himself to cast the votes nominating Clinton.

He had been too flustered by the DNC’s stonewalling of his efforts that morning and the day before to formally file another vice-presidential candidate’s name. He had been busy with his group’s most recent delegation poll, where 81 percent of 318 delegates who replied said they would support a progressive alternative on the ticket. That same poll found that 55 percent said they would protest during Tim Kaine’s speech and 58 percent during Clinton’s speech.

“This is not to mess with the DNC,” Solomon told the press. “This is to have a ticket that reflects the best of what we put forth in the primary campaign.”


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