At a breakfast for the California delegation to the Democratic National Convention, more than half of the 422 seats are empty. The people filling the left side of the banquet hall —since day one primarily Bernie Sanders delegates — become scarcer every day as Sanders delegates feel disenfranchised from the official convention.
“Drop off is completely normal,” said Michael Soller, communications director for the California Democratic Party. “I couldn’t say it’s Sanders delegates who are leaving—I saw a number of delegates for both candidates today.”
But both Sanders and Hillary Clinton delegates believe it is the mostly the Sanders delegation who are staying away.
The breakfasts are accompanied by speakers who try to encourage the delegation to vote for Clinton. “I would guess that it’s being affected by the fact that the Bernie supporters are tired,” said Bill Hess, a Sanders delegate from Fresno. “They don’t want to hear the propaganda anymore.”
“Far less Sanders supporters were there,” agreed Marsha Conant, a Clinton delegate from Fresno. “I suspect that was part of it.”
Democratic party leaders have emphasized the DNC platform is the most progressive in party history, having incorporated ideas from the Sanders campaign in an attempt to lure voters. Sanders delegates, however, don’t trust Clinton to follow through on her platform’s promises.
Hess, an attorney, feels that the Clinton campaign only grudgingly accepted the current platform. “It seems that’s not really what they want,” he said. “I’m concerned that it’s not binding and they’re not going to follow it.”
After Clinton was officially elected the Democratic presidential nominee with 60 percent of the vote Tuesday night, hundreds of Sanders supporters, many from California, staged a walkout in protest. On Wednesday, they worked to reestablish their goals for the next two days.
Hess did not walk out but is supportive of those who did, saying they are “one in spirit with all of the ‘Berners.’ ”
There is disagreement as to whether the majority of California’s Sanders delegation is part of the “Bernie or Bust” movement. Participants believe they are the majority, while the Clinton delegation feels that same group is only a “loud minority,” and most will support Clinton in the end.
“There’s no way to know for sure,” said Soller, the state party communications director, who believes a small number of Sanders delegates are angry, rather than simply disappointed, about the convention’s outcome.
The California Sanders delegation attended multiple meetings, closed to the media, after breakfast Wednesday where they established how they would continue to show their objections on the convention floor. “It’s our right to be there,” said Joey Aszterbaum, a Sanders delegate from California’s 36th congressional district, covering eastern Riverside County.
Clinton delegates hope the movement will be more respectful of speakers at the convention. Past interruptions “made me sit there and think, ‘I’m not enjoying this experience,’ ” said Conant, the retired owner of a small printing company, as her voice started to shake. “And to me this is a lifelong dream and goal.”
Conant remained steadfast in her role as a delegate, saying, “I’m still trying to reach out and be unified.”
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