One goal of the Democratic National Convention is to unite the party under one candidate. If the California delegates’ breakfast Monday showed anything, it’s that the party is not yet at that point.
What was supposed to be a festive celebration of presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (sounds of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” greeted delegates in the conference room) turned tense when speakers took the stage.
Presenters stressed the importance of nominating Clinton, with each mention of her name garnering simultaneous applause and “boos” with the occasional shouts of “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.”
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s speech was accompanied throughout by a chant of “count the votes” from the Sanders delegation in reference to the amount of time the state took to announce an official vote count for the June 7 primary.
“We feel disenfranchised as a state,” said Yamina Roland of Fresno, a Sanders delegate for the 22nd Congressional District (Devin Nunes’ district).
In general, Sanders delegates were discouraged by the focus on Clinton.
“I couldn’t stay for all of the speakers because it was just inauthentic,” Roland said. “I felt like I needed to take another shower after listening to Padilla and (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi give lip service to (Sanders) but completely refuse to incorporate his platform into their agenda.”
“You could describe it as pandemonium at some points,” said Bill Hess, a Fresno attorney and Sanders delegate from the 22nd District. “I think it’s very important to express that there’s an insurrection in the party for the people and that it’s very passionate and very dedicated.”
Dedicated enough that the senator himself could not sway his delegates. To boos, Sanders declared, “This is the real world we live in,” before ending with a plea to help the party defeat Donald Trump.
Hess defended the floor response, calling it “healthy.”
“It is certainly not personal to Bernie and it expresses the passion of our movement, which has never been about Bernie himself.”
Clinton’s supporters still hold on to hope for their peers.
“The Bernie delegates have been exceedingly disruptive,” said Judy Lund-Bell of Fresno, a Clinton delegate from the 22nd Congressional District. “They say that they will never vote for Hillary, but hopefully they will change their minds when they calm down and think rationally instead of emotionally.”
Michael D. Evans, chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party, said he believes that the party is on the way to unity – and that the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee was the first step. Wasserman Schultz stepped down from her position following an email scandal where members of the committee discussed possible ways to undermine Sanders’ campaign. Evans categorized Wasserman Schultz’s role saying it was an “abuse of her position.”
Evans applauded the effect the Sanders campaign has had on the election and believes the senator has helped to make Clinton’s platform more progressive. “It is a movement,” said Evans, “but we can only achieve it if we are working together.”
But not everyone wants to work together.
“It feels like they’re trying to persuade or coerce the Bernie faction of the party,” Hess said. “It’s not realistic because there’s so much passion and dedication from the Bernie side and for Bernie’s policies that we’re not open to listen to that at this point.”
Time will tell if the two factions can come together under one roof.
“I think that a lot of (Sanders delegates) are going to come around, but I don’t believe it’s the right time right now to make that assumption,” Hess said. He added that the push for Clinton feels like the party is “shoving her down our throats.”
The Temple University School of Media and Communication has assembled a team of student reporters to cover the Democratic National Convention in their hometown. Harrison Brink is a graduating senior journalism major at Temple: firstname.lastname@example.org