PHILADELPHIA ― Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) diehard supporters weren’t merely disappointed with his decision to endorse Hillary Clinton. Seeing their progressive hero join forces with the blemished former secretary of state prompted them to shed tears, to scream in anguish, and even to pull their hair out.
Yet despite the lingering feelings of bitterness and loss, the senator himself seems to have escaped being dubbed a modern-day Benedict Arnold.
In and around the halls at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Sanders supporters and delegates were reluctantly resigned to his decision to throw in the towel and support Clinton. Some explained that his hands were simply tied, and that he had to bite the bullet to avoid being ostracized by Democrats at the convention.
“If he didn’t endorse her, he would have gotten locked out of the convention. I think that’s what it’s about,” said Jonathan Fields from California, before describing Sanders as “very pragmatic.”
Marching along with Green Party supporters in Philadelphia, Karen Symnestvdt said she first cried after hearing Bernie back Clinton in early July. She said she believed Clinton’s campaign “threatened” him into it or else he’d risk losing Monday night’s keynote address and the progressive platform planks he pushed for.
“Most people, I think, realized that he has to do certain things ― that he wanted to get a speaking position, even though it’s a stupid one the first day of the convention; that he wanted to get his platform,” she said. “He was threatened by Hillary that he wouldn’t get a speaking position or anything he wanted on the platform, which is his biggest concern. It’s not about him. So I understand he did it for good reasons in his eyes.”
Sporting a shirt that read “Bernie Stand Wars” in the same font as the movie “Star Wars,” Symnestvdt said she remained optimistic about the senator’s next steps.
“He still hasn’t conceded. Who knows what might happen, you never know,” she said.
Others said Sanders was making a strategic play in hopes of keeping his presidential campaign alive after the convention. They promised to keep fighting, marching and shouting in order to sustain Sanders’ revolution ― even if they were unsure whether he would play a role in its future.
Danna Hankins of North Carolina said she left the Democratic Party in hopes of Sanders joining Jill Stein on the Green Party ticket.
“As I understand it, he could decide to run with Jill Stein, once he’s met his obligation at the convention,” she said. “There’s a lot of us who are hopeful for that.”
Kelly Miller from New York also cited Sanders’ decision not to explicitly concede from the race as a hopeful sign he may stay in the race.
“She’s just a presumptive nominee, that’s a thing. He has just as much of a chance as she does. Neither one of them has the delegates to become the nominee. It’s up to the superdelegates,” she said.
Andy Billotti from Maryland, who said Sanders’ decision to endorse “hurt,” echoed the sentiment. “If the superdelegates choose, and they choose with their hearts, and they choose against greed, Bernie Sanders will be our nominee.”
Standing near Independence Hall on Tuesday was Patrick Duffey, of Pittsburgh, who said there was a 0.1 percent chance he would vote for Clinton. One way to get his vote, he explained, would be if she signed an “actual contract” that bound her to pursuing the positions in the party platform. It wasn’t clear how that would be legally binding.
Nearby stood Teddi Mills, wearing a black Bernie shirt and carrying a cardboard sign that read, in part, “Fuck Killary KKKlinton.” She said she would never vote for Clinton under any circumstances.
“She could tap Bernie for her vice president and I still wouldn’t vote for her, because then he would have sold out and she’s not much better than Trump,” she explained. “She is just a female version of Trump.”
Sanders and his campaign team notched a victory over the weekend with the resignation of Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who stepped down over a number of hacked DNC emails that were shown to be biased against Sanders. But he has struggled to reign in the anger among his core supporters, who repeatedly booed Clinton and chanted “Lock her up” on the floor of the convention.
Sanders tried to unite the party in his keynote address Monday evening, telling delegates that “any objective observer will conclude that, based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.” The next morning, he urged supporters to refrain from booing Clinton, and framed the election as a binary choice between her and Donald Trump.
“It is easy to boo, but it’s harder to look your kids in the face” if Trump is elected, he said.
But Miller, a Sanders supporter who spoke with HuffPost a day prior at a Green Party rally in downtown Philadelphia, wasn’t receptive to such an argument. “The whole idea about, vote for her because she’s not Trump? Fuck that noise. I mean really, she’s no better than he is. She’s a warmonger.”
Sam Stein contributed reporting.