The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

How Bernie Superfans Are Reacting to Obama's Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

Supporters of Bernie Sanders attend a rally outside of RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, June 9, 2016.

by CJ Ciaramella
Jun 10 2016, 9:02pm

As Bernie Sanders's campaign shuffles toward its inevitable end, President Barack Obama's endorsement of Hillary Clinton Thursday did little to dampen the enthusiasm at a rally for the candidate in Washington, DC. For many of Bernie's fans, the endorsement was just more politics-as-usual, stacking the deck against the Vermont independent and his unusual Democratic presidential campaign.

Obama formally endorsed Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic nominee, after meeting with Sanders in the White House Thursday morning. "I know how hard this job can be," Obama said in a video statement. "That's why I know Hillary will be so good at it. In fact, I don't think there's ever been someone so qualified to hold this office."

Later that evening, elsewhere in the nation's capital, around 3,000 Sanders supporters—a relatively small crowd for the populist candidate—packed into a skate park outside of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in northeast DC to hear their candidate speak. Among them were Jessica Caiazzo, 19, and Rob Odell, 18, who drove down from New Jersey the night before the rally to see Sanders.

"It changes my feelings more so on Obama than Clinton," Caiazzo said of the president's endorsement. "We all know she's a liar and a fraud. Now it's, basically, instead of Obama being progressive, he's fallen for party politics, and he's gotta endorse Clinton to keep it in the Democratic Party."

Odell said he considered Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren's endorsement of Clinton more unforgivable and said she was "essentially selling out her values."

"I don't know if she has a part in progressive politics now," Odell said.

Their sentiments were matched onstage by civil rights activist Cornel West, a Sanders ally, who blasted "Wall Street Democrats" and referred to Clinton as a "milquetoast neoliberal sister."

Washington Democrats will go to the polls next Tuesday in the last contest of the party's primary process. Only one young voter out of more than a dozen I interviewed at the rally said Obama's endorsement made him more open to backing Clinton. Most said that his support for Sanders's opponent was disappointing but unsurprising, and did nothing to sway their views.

"I've always been an Obama supporter, but I'm still as adamant about Bernie as I was," said Bria Gyamfi, a 22-year-old from Virginia who had come to the rally with a few friends. "Because it's kind of expected that he was going to endorse Hillary."

"If you weren't expecting the incumbent Democratic president to endorse the presumptive Democratic nominee, then your expectation was unreasonable," said Alex Putterman, 22, who recently moved to DC from Connecticut, where he voted for Sanders in that state's primary on April 26.

Although Clinton has by now effectively won the Democratic primary, some people I spoke to were still making up their minds on how to cast their ballots. Like Jamie Anderson, 21, who said he thinks he'll vote for Sanders. "I was sort of on the fence, but I was a little more inspired than I expected to be by the rally tonight," Anderson told me.

As Sanders spoke, rolling through the well-worn and well-loved lines of his stump speech, hitting issues like student debt, marijuana legalization, and police accountability, Manu Gowswami was happy to get a glimpse of his beloved candidate. A 19-year-old from Singapore interning in DC for the summer, Gowswami described himself as a Bernie superfan. "Bigger than that, a fan of politics as a whole," he added.

"I'm a huge Obama fan as well," Gowswami said. The Clinton endorsement, he said, was "something he had to do eventually. At the end of the day, though, this campaign has become something bigger than all of us combined. It's something that Clinton has to address now. It's big enough that she has to incorporate some of the policies that Bernie stands for in her agenda and potentially even include Bernie in her administration, which is what I really think is the best part of this campaign."

And among the most hardcore Sanders supporters, the end of the Democratic race is merely a bump in the road, on the way to a bigger, if vague, political revolution."I will continue this to till very end, and even when it's the end, I don't think it's the end because this is a movement he's created, and it's just snowballing from here," said Jessie Rone, 25, of Maryland. "Wonderful things are coming from it."

Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

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