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The DNC's pro-Bernie protesters won't go away

Hillary Clinton has officially secured the Democratic nomination, but the party is facing an insurgency from a small group of delegates loyal to Bernie Sanders.

by Brendan James
Jul 27 2016, 4:50pm

Photo via Reuters

As Hillary Clinton officially secured the Democratic nomination for president on Tuesday, her party faced an insurgency from a small group of delegates loyal to Bernie Sanders. After the Vermont senator announced Clinton's nomination, his supporters walked out of the roll call vote at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center and staged a sit-in at a nearby media tent.

"I'm protesting the fact that the Democratic party is not democratic," said Trinity Ledesma, a devout Sanders supporter from Washington in Philadelphia to serve as an alternate for her state's delegate.

Most commentators in the media appeared baffled and called the rowdy delegates delusional, spoiled, uneducated and perhaps just flat out sexist, despite the fact that the delegation includes a number of women.

Didn't Hillary Clinton win the most delegates, fair and square? Didn't their own candidate just endorse her? Didn't his campaign win a meaningful battle over the Democratic platform and future election rules? What do these people want?

Related: Sanders booed by supporters after telling them to vote for Clinton

The answer, according to the delegates, goes beyond Sanders simply losing the nomination.

"There's a feeling that Bernie supporters and activists have worked their ass off for a year and they're exasperated that the system is a bit rigged — the DNC, the scheduling of the debates, and the collusion behind the scenes," said Jeff Cohen, spokesperson for the Bernie Delegate Network.

To a Sanders delegate, the last few days have been one punch in the gut after another. First, Clinton picked Senator Tim Kaine, a pro-TPP lawmaker who as governor of Virginia praised anti-union right-to-work laws. Next, a massive leak revealed that DNC officials openly favored Clinton to be the party's nominee. Finally, right after a chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned, she scored a job as honorary chair of Clinton's campaign.

While Clinton delegates have been celebrating, the "Bernie or bust" contingent has been reading each new headline with contempt.

"This isn't just for the few of us here, it's for everybody in the nation and they just don't see it," said Ledesma. "They just love their party here and it's just a coronation of their queen. That's not democratic."


A Colorado delegate, Caitlin Glidewell, who's in school to be a sign language interpreter, brought up the superdelegate system, which particularly rankles Sanders supporters. "The only reason it was so close in Colorado was because of superdelegates that did not vote the way their constituents wanted them to, and that is the case in many many states," she said.

"We are a Bernie state and we are all very disappointed with the way our superdelegates voted," Glidewell added. "We feel cheated by them, we feel they should not be speaking for any of us."

Cohen said that according to the Bernie Delegate Network's internal surveys, only a small minority of these delegates are of the "Bernie or Bust" variety, planning to stay home or vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein now that Clinton has wrapped up the contest.

He stressed that even those who plan to vote for Clinton are taking part in these demonstrations.

Related: Sanders quiets 'Bernie or Bust' contingent with plea for unity

"I think even the angrier delegates know that they've won things, but then the VP pick and hiring of Wasserman Schultz was a slap in the face," Cohen said. Despite winning what Sanders called "the most progressive party platform in history," delegates know that the platform can be — and often is — ignored.

Sanders supporters wanted Clinton to select a VP who would push her to honor those progressive commitments. Cohen rattled off a list including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, or Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison.

"I think the sense is, we're now in the streets again. We're telling the Democratic Party establishment that we're here, get used to it," Cohen said. "The progressive movement is here, it's young, and it's going to be watching for broken promises from day one."

"We hope it's you and not Trump," he said, "but there's no honeymoon."

Liz Fields contributed reporting from Philadelphia

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