On the first day of the Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders delegates were able to attend a meeting with the former presidential hopeful. In the meeting, Sanders tried to communicate with his supporters the need to unify behind Hillary Clinton in order to get her into office.
Reactions to the meeting were mixed. As delegates left, some were at peace with the idea of supporting Clinton.
The struggle that opposes party unity
But some Sanders supporters struggled with the speech, breaking down crying. Some got vocal, as did one man who left the ballroom and began yelling that he would not vote for Hillary. Another, after many delegates had already filtered out of the room, stood up on a chair to shout to the room.
One attendee of the meeting named Ashley laughed at the suggestion that Sanders wanted them to vote for Clinton.
“I don’t think that he truly in his heart endorses her,” she said.
Ashley, who is from Vermont, said she felt that Sanders was doing the best he could with his given circumstances. She believes the Democratic Party is pressuring him.
“Things are still the same as far as we’re concerned,” she said.
And after the meeting Monday, she was still looking at the possibilities the convention offered.
“I think we all plan to vote Bernie and try our hardest to maybe get some motions on the floor that would put us in a position where we could possibly allow super delegates to sway or abstain from voting,” she said.
“I think there’s a lot of disappointment and a bit of shock,” said Jill Everett, a volunteer at the DNC who was late to the meeting but was aware of the outcome.
Everett, for her part, spoke of the DNC email revelation made through Wikileaks and how she thought it could effect Hillary’s nomination.
“We’re hoping by the end of the week, she drops out,” Everett said.
Everett said she would not vote for Clinton, but would vote for Jill Stein in the Green Party if need be.
Ashley wasn’t sure what she would do if Sanders lost the nomination.
“I know that the odds are against us,” she said. “I’m not delusional, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”
While some are alarmed by Trump and his rhetoric, one challenge facing the Democratic Party and their efforts to unify voters is that some Sanders supporters do not see much difference between the Democratic and Republican nominees.
“She’s done extremely unethical things, and I don’t think that she respects the Constitution anymore than Donald Trump,” Ashley said.
Everett also saw a similarity between the two candidates.
“Hillary does what Trump says, Hillary just doesn’t speak about it,” Everett said. “She doesn’t have the guts to say it. She just lies. But Trump says the same things basically.”
Everett said she feels like now is a good time to start a new third party, with Sanders as their candidate.
“This is no longer the real Democratic Party; this is a corporate interest party.”
Some Sanders supporters had different ideas about why Sanders was making this announcement. Some took it as face value, but others thought or hoped there was a different plan behind his words.
“You can sit here and think, is he just biding time because he doesn’t want to alienate the Hillary supporters, and is he just treading water thinking that by the end of the week it will sort itself out and Hillary will be gone and he’ll be the nominee?” Everett said. “Or are we just fantasizing about that?”
Uncertainty, hope, and some unity.
Not all Bernie supporters rejected his call to support Clinton. But there were some who were still unsure of how to move forward.
“I heard what he said and I will take into account everything Bernie says because I love him, but I’m not going to lie, I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet,” said Keanuu Smith-Brown of Maryland.
Abby Collins of Portland, Oregon, felt like she had seen this coming for a while.
“What’s amazing about this campaign is that it was so filled with hope and inspiration, and it’s always been part of a movement,” she said. “It’s never been about a particular candidate, that’s what he’s been saying all along. We came much farther than we ever expected, and that’s why the hope and the inspiration continues.”
Mikel Weisser, a congressional candidate from Arizona, said the atmosphere in the ballroom was positive as Bernie spoke. That is, until he talked about getting behind Clinton.
“There was sustained booing, and that sort of thing, which I thought was awful,” he said.
Weisser is fine with supporting Clinton as the Democratic candidate.
“If we really came here because we believe in Bernie Sanders, and he’s telling us to get on board … that’s the thing to do,” Weisser said. “At least, that’s where I am.”
Weisser said the choice is to support Clinton or give the presidency to Trump.
“The longer that we fight against ourselves, the more Trump gains,” he said.
He and his wife are involved within local politics within their state.
“That’s how you get stuff changed, instead of throwing rocks from a distance,” Weisser said.