In the nation’s capital on Thursday, there were signs the Democratic Party was beginning to unify around presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who jolted the party with an insurgent presidential campaign that pushed Clinton to the political left, met with President Barack Obama. After the meeting, Sanders assailed presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying it would be a disaster if he won in November and vowing to “work as hard as I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States.”
Still, Sanders did not end his campaign, even though Clinton has won enough delegates to secure the presidential nomination. And he didn’t endorse her.
I’m 100 percent behind what Bernie’s doing. It’s important for this country moving forward. The man deserves that much for courageously bringing up the issues he has.
Fresno resident and Bernie Sanders delegate Jake Jennings
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That, apparently, is fine with Sanders’ Fresno supporters. Many don’t seem ready to give up. They still believe in Sanders, and they still dislike Clinton, even in the face of a possible Trump presidency.
“I’m 100 percent behind what Bernie’s doing,” said Fresno resident Jake Jennings, a Sanders delegate who will attend the national convention next month in Philadelphia. “It’s important for this country moving forward. The man deserves that much for courageously bringing up the issues he has.”
On June 23, Sanders supporters will hold a barbecue and potluck in Fresno’s Roeding Park. “We will continue our fight to the convention!” the invitation says.
The “Fresno for Bernie” Facebook page is still filled with anger and suspicion.
“Voter suppression is REAL,” posted Selma resident Axél Morales. “I seen it right in front of my nose.”
Raychel Perkins, referencing Obama’s endorsement of Clinton earlier this week, wrote: “Seriously if I hear ‘all democrats are for Hillary now because of Obama’ I’m going to go change my party preference asap.”
Jennings is right there with them. In November, he says, he won’t vote for Clinton. He plans to either write in Sanders’ name or cast his ballot for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. (Though he admits the decision would be tougher if he lived in a swing state and not a Democratic stronghold like California.)
“I’ve been awakened to how corrupt the system is,” he said. “Obviously, Trump is a horrible person. I understand that.”
But Jennings doesn’t buy the argument that Clinton is better than Trump. Clinton supported the Iraq war and free trade agreements, Jennings said, and has “destroyed more lives than anything Donald Trump has done. I think Donald Trump is a despicable human being, but what Hillary has done for working people of this country is no better.”
Doug Kessler, a Clinton supporter and a regional chair for the state Democratic Party, said even he appreciated Sanders’ candidacy. He said Sanders forced Clinton to move left on some issues such as reining in Wall Street and addressing student-loan debt – though he thought it was unrealistic to think that a college education could be free.
“Bernie made it easier for me to be a Hillary supporter,” Kessler said. “I thank Bernie for that.”
That said, the vitriol of some Sanders supporters and their refusal to support Clinton under any circumstances went a little too far, Kessler said.
“This ‘Bernie or bust,’ I don’t get that because Trump would clearly be a disaster, and I think Bernie knows that, too,” Kessler said.
That, however, may not change – ever.
Jennings said he’s waiting for all the California votes to be tallied to see where Sanders stands. If Sanders can close the gap – currently with Clinton at 55.8 percent and Sanders at 43.2 percent – it could give him more power headed into the convention. Jennings isn’t just thinking about things like influencing the platform; he’s still thinking about Sanders as the nominee. He wants to push super delegates to look at Sanders’ polling numbers vs. Trump in swing states. He says Sanders is the stronger candidate than Clinton.
“Momentum, energy, new voters,” Jennings said. “There are powerful statements to make.”