PHILADELPHIA ― Jim Boydston was hoarse. He’d been talking all day, and yelling all night, and at the Democratic National Convention, the days and the nights are very long.
But hoarseness didn’t stop him from singing, and in the middle of the lobby of the Marriott hotel in Center City, he belted out a song about Bernie Sanders and his fight to protect the American people from corporate greed.
“We’re on a journey with Bernie,” sang Boydston, a trained opera singer and Sanders delegate from California, as hotel guests holding rain-dampened convention signs walked past, and bar patrons gripped their drinks with their noses in their phones.
Boydston had just returned from the first night of the convention, and he and his companion, California delegate Josephine Piarulli, were not happy. Not happy with the Democratic National Committee, not happy with the media, not happy with Hillary Clinton’s nomination.
Like a lot of Sanders delegates, they were furious about the revelation in hacked DNC emails that the party had favored Clinton over Sanders in the primary race. And, like a lot of fellow Sanders supporters, they were unsure who they’d cast their votes for come November.
“With regards to the WikiLeaks information that has come out, it has absolutely verified what many of us have been alleging for the last year about how the election process is rigged,” Boydston said.
“The DNC has been tipping the scales,” Piarulli added. Clinton “did not win fair and square like people think.”
Among Sanders delegates and backers, the rage was palpable. Some seemed relieved to have their suspicions confirmed.
“It’s not a conspiracy theory, we haven’t been crazy,” one California delegate said. Others spoke of feelings of anger and betrayal, which convention viewers could have sensed in the booing, chanting and heckling that interrupted almost every speech Monday.
On Tuesday, 24 four hours later, the party nominated Clinton, and it became official: Sanders would not be on the ballot, and his supporters would have to decide how to vote.
‘She’s Taking Bernie People For Granted’
With a Republican alternative as unappealing as Donald Trump, what’s a Sanders backer to do? Hold your nose? Give the DNC the trumping it deserves? Stay home? And how, with their candidate out of contention, were they going to continue what Sanders calls “the political revolution”?
Some conceded that they’d vote for Clinton ― on a few conditions.
“If Hillary adopts a lot of Bernie’s platform, then she might be able to get my vote,” said Brad DeLay, a 40-something Sanders supporter, also from California. “But I don’t foresee it based on her VP pick. I think she’s taking Bernie people for granted based on that pick.”
His companion, Riley Rooster, agreed. Rooster, who is in his 20s, is from New Orleans; he and DeLay met while following Sanders on the campaign trail.
“I don’t care one bit who we’re voting for,” Rooster said. “It’s about the issues. If Hillary wants to pick up the issues, like how Bernie says that if you work 40 hours a week you don’t have to worry about going hungry, that’s the issue.”
Many Sanders supporters had to be asked several times who they’d vote for in November before they answered. Some, like Rooster, wouldn’t commit to any candidate who wasn’t Bernie Sanders.
But Rooster had a clear plan for how to carry the excitement stirred up by Sanders and the energy that so many had thrown behind his ideas.
“I’m running for Congress in 2018,” he said, matter-of-factly.
Dora, 47, a Vermont resident who wouldn’t give her last name, spent her day protesting on behalf of Sanders ― and in opposition to the DNC. She marched several miles from Center City to the Wells Fargo Center and was protesting at the entrance gate as DNC attendees arrived.
“I was standing there letting them know how we feel about voter fraud and how we feel about how things went down,” she said.
Dora said she has always voted for third-party candidates, but she volunteered for Sanders.
“I canvassed for Bernie in seven states,” she said. She said she has no intention of voting for Clinton and would have no problem voting third party. “I feel that we’re never going to get real change if everyone is voting for the lesser of two evils.”
A Third-Party Vote Isn’t A Vote For Trump
Boydston, the delegate from California, seemed to have less of a plan for Nov. 8 and later. When pushed who he’d vote for, Boydston, who identified himself as “Bernie or bust” and who voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2012, seemed to be leaning toward another third-party vote.
“I can’t vote for a candidate I can’t trust,” he said. “And beyond that is supporting a progressive agenda and who will get big money out of politics and respect everyone. So that is going to dictate how I vote in November. I don’t know how that’s going to be yet.”
Asked if he was concerned that voting for third-party candidates would siphon votes away from Democrats and from Clinton, making a Trump presidency more likely, Boydston was adamant. “I’m not buying into that at all. I’m not concerned about winners and losers. I’m concerned about voting for the right person.”
Piarullo jumped in: “I know that is the narrative that the DNC keeps on using, and the politics of fear is usually what every candidate does. ... Hillary is saying, ‘Vote for me or you’re going to get Trump.’ The DNC had a candidate that could really beat Trump. And they insisted that she be the candidate. So if Trump gets elected, they own that responsibility. They did that to themselves.”
Grace Kyle, 17, won’t be old enough to vote on Election Day. She came to Philadelphia with her father, an alternate delegate from California pledged to Clinton. Grace said this is the first election she’s paid close attention to. Sanders’ commitment to slowing climate change and protecting the environment has inspired her.
Still, with Sanders out of the running, Grace said that, were she of age, she’d vote for Clinton. “Otherwise it’s just being selfish,” she said. Her father agreed. “I don’t want a megalomaniac proto-fascist for president,” he explained.
What is Kyle going to do with all the Bern she’s been feeling this year? “I’m going to college,” she said. “I want to study international relations. I’m really interested in the connections between people.”