On Tuesday, July 12th, I had the chance to witness history – a sitting United States Senator effectively ended his campaign for President of the United States. Usually, this imagery created would be that of a distinguished, principled statesmen ending a campaign, but sticking true to the principles that drove his campaign in the first place.
Think again. This time, Vermont’s Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, who ran as a Democrat against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, endorsed Clinton. Normal, yes, but principled? No. Sanders, who ran as an anti-bank, anti-free market, anti-anti candidate gave in to the pressure coming from Hillary Clinton and her allies. He caved, and it was embarrassing to watch.
I arrived at the Hillary Clinton ‘unity’ rally at 7:30 am. Driving up from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, I had the chance to reflect on what I expected from the rally and I crafted an image in my mind as to what Sanders was going to say, how he was going to do it, and what the crowd’s reaction was going to be like.
Initially, I thought that Sanders would end his campaign, but would hesitate on a full-fledged endorsement of Clinton. Then, I thought that Sanders would endorse Clinton, but hesitate on being an active supporter of her efforts to defeat Donald Trump. Then, I didn’t know what to think. Maybe Sanders would endorse Trump. In this election cycle, anything could have happened.
I also wondered what would be in and how Sanders’ would deliver his message. Would he continue railing against the big banks? Would he hammer away at his ‘free (insert government program here)’ message that he has perfected on the trail? Would he talk about his worldview and foreign policy? Would he even say anything?
When I arrived at the event, I was greeted by a good deal of Clinton supporters, and a vocal contingency of Sanders supporters. At first looks, the scene outside of the Portsmouth High School gymnasium didn’t look, sound or feel like a unity rally. Instead, Sanders’ supporters were chanting “Never Hillary” and “Bernie, Bernie!” Bernie supporters were holding homemade rally signs that displayed messages such as, “There is only one person like Bernie that comes along in your lifetime” and “The world needs Bernie”. You could clearly tell there was tension in the air.
Upon entering the gym, I noticed that the Clinton camp had raised the “Stronger Together” banner in every space imaginable. That, coupled with American flags, made for a photo-op moment for the endorsement heard around the political world.
The Socialist Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton took the stage at 11:00 AM. Sanders spoke first, and his supporters were emphatically cheering on the tired, weary Bernie Sanders. He gave the same stump speech I heard him give in San Pedro, California, so he at least gets an A for consistency.
“Hundreds, but not all, of Sanders supporters up and left their seats…”
Then, upon his “full and total endorsement” and pledge to “work to get Hillary elected President”, Sanders introduced Hillary. At that moment, it seemed as if the unification was nonexistent. Hundreds, but not all, of Sanders supporters up and left their seats, including the couple sitting right next to me. They weren’t there for Hillary. They were there for Bernie.
And my observation of this walk out can even be seen in national polls, which are showing that Sanders’ supporters are not flocking over to Hillary. According to a July 12-13 Yik Yak poll,which surveyed 2,000 self-identified Sanders supporters, only 39% of millennials who supported Sanders in the primary will vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. For 48% of these respondents, they are considering supporting a third party candidate, such as Green Party nominee Jill Stein or Libertarian nominee former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.
After the walkout, some Clinton supporters were noticeably angry, and the entire crowd mustered up their best, “Hillary, Hillary!” as the Secretary began her speech. She talked, cheered, unified, and then ended her speech by asking everyone to donate $27 to her campaign, a nod to the Sanders donation average.
By the time it was all said and done, the preliminary vision of unification that I had conjured up in my mind had fell flat, and the road ahead for Clinton to woo over Sanders supporters seemed rocky and bumpy.
“Sanders sold out, and his supporters have every right to be angry”
But, the thing that really left me flabbergasted was this: Sanders sold out, and his supporters have every right to be angry and consider supporting a third party candidate in lieu of Hillary. What was he decrying for the entire duration of his campaign? The big banks need to be broken up, the establishment is corrupt and politicians are out of touch with reality. Hillary just so happens to give paid speeches to Wall Street big banks, has been a fixture of the Democrat establishment for decades and has a flurry of scandals, such as her handling of classified information over a private email server, in which 56% of Americans disapprove of the FBI’s exoneration of Clinton, according to a July 6-7 Washington Post/ABC poll.
I know, campaigns are hard-fought and then candidates and their supporters come around and support the nominee, but Bernie did a total 180 from where he was just a month, two or even fourteen months ago.
But, what did Sanders get in return that the public doesn’t know about? Yes, Sanders’ and his allies did help to craft the most liberal Democrat Party platform in the history of Democrat Party platforms. Maybe this was enough for Bernie. Time will tell.
But what will be more telling is whether or not Hillary sticks to the promises she made to Bernie and his supporters. If history is any judge of that, maybe Bernie’s words will help to make the outcome of this situation a little bit more clear; “I seriously question Secretary Clinton’s judgement…”