The chants told the story as Bernie Sanders took the stage at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Monday afternoon, a few hours before the opening of the Democratic National Convention.
“Bernie or bust!”
“Take it to the floor!”
At least 300 Sanders partisans were in the ballroom, and more were gathered outside.
Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton earlier this month. But his delegates are having a hard time letting go.
They liked it when Sanders said, “What we want to achieve is nothing less than a transformation of American society.” To cheers, he called for higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and no congressional passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the remainder of Obama’s term.
But he wanted one more thing — to throw his backers’ support behind Hillary Clinton’s campaign against Donald Trump in the general election. The crowd responded with boos and cries of “no!”
“Brothers and sisters, this is the real world we live in,” Sanders pled. “Trump is a demagogue.”
By the end, the chants had changed to “Thank you, Bernie!” Three young men in Robin Hood hats gave some final shouts of “Bernie or bust!”
“If you could vote for Clinton, Trump, or stay home, which would you do?” I asked one of them, Sean Comfort, a Sanders-pledged delegate from Washington.
“We’re going to see how the convention runs and then we’ll see,” Comfort replied.
Sanders backers got some of the concessions they wanted from the Democratic National Committee. This year, 700 superdelegates, who are not bound by state voters, helped give Clinton a decisive edge over Sanders in the primary campaign. In the 2020 election, that number will be reduced to 250. The DNC also agreed to appoint a commission to study the possibility of opening up the party’s primaries to Republican and independent voters, another one of Sanders’s complaints.
Another Sanders supporter said he was ready to follow the recommendation of his favorite and cast his vote for Clinton. “Handing the White House over to Donald Trump and this Republican Party is not an option,” said Chris Pumpelly, a Sanders delegate from Kansas. “It is not acceptable as someone who believes in progressive and American values.”