Sanders delegates, still split, eager for commitment in Clinton address

PHILADELPHIA — For Johntel Greene, the moment came during the formal roll call, when representatives of each state stood on the floor of the Democratic National Convention to cast their votes for the presidential nomination.

Greene, a 26-year-old Bernie Sanders delegate from Silver Spring, began to choke up as officials boasted of their state history and notable natives. The significance of having a woman as a presidential nominee struck Greene, and she decided that it was time to be "all in" for Hillary Clinton.


"It's been a raw, emotional few days," said the Silver Spring woman, who was already sporting a Clinton button on her shoulder as she mingled with other Marylanders at an afternoon reception on Wednesday. "Bernie can be the face of the revolution, but the revolution will still continue."

Despite jeers on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center and protests in the streets, the Clinton campaign is banking on the hope that the heavily scripted convention is bringing young, new-to-politics Sanders supporters into the fold — and that the holdouts will start to come under pressure from within.


The push to unify the party continued Wednesday as a string of liberal Democrats, including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, took to the convention stage to promote Clinton. President Barack Obama delivered the final address.

"She knows what's at stake in the decisions our government makes for the working family, the senior citizen, the small business owner, the soldier, and the veteran," Obama said. "Even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect."

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who tried to pitch himself to young, liberal voters during his own run for the Democratic presidential nomination, also spoke.

But many Sanders delegates said they were already looking ahead to Thursday's speech from Clinton herself. Some said they wanted to hear her commit to the progressive platform the party has adopted. The platform is not binding on the nominee.

Specifically, several delegates said they wanted to get a sense that Clinton is not planning to drop her opposition to the pending Pacific Rim free trade deal — a pact she once called the gold standard of trade agreements, but later abandoned under pressure from Sanders and his supporters.

Keanuu Smith-Brown, a 20-year-old Sanders supporter from Baltimore, said he has come to grips with the "reality" of the election and suggested he would ultimately vote for Clinton. But he said she will have to work to inspire him to get out and volunteer for her campaign this fall.

"I will never be comfortable with saying that I fully support Hillary Clinton until I see her make the strides to gain our full support," Smith-Brown said. "With me it's more about her proving herself — not me being with her, but her being with us."

Julian Ivey, a 20-year-old Sanders delegate from Prince George's County, said many delegates "want her to say that she's going to stand by the promises that she's made this election cycle."


Ivey said he supports Clinton, but has been surprised by some of the overt signs of dissent. Hundreds of delegates walked out of the convention in protest Tuesday night following the roll call.

"I was very shocked to see how much anger there is in our party," Ivey said. "I expected it from the Republicans, but it really surprised me from the party that I've been a part of all my life."

Protesters, meanwhile, have flooded the streets and, for a second time in as many days, wound their way through massive tents set up alongside the Wells Fargo Center for the media.

Clinton will attempt the balancing act of wooing the base of the Democratic Party while simultaneously reaching out to independents and Republicans disaffected by GOP nominee Donald Trump on Thursday night as she accepts the nomination and addresses the convention, and the nation.

Democratic delegates began the convention here divided over several economic issues, including banking regulations, trade and the $15-an-hour minimum wage. Those divisions were exacerbated by thousands of internal emails published on WikiLeaks that suggested Democratic Party officials were working behind the scenes in the final weeks of the primaries to help Clinton.

But several Sanders supporters gave the Clinton campaign credit for embracing liberal policy planks in the party platform and for running a convention that they called inclusive and respectful of the unexpected wave of support that Sanders received during the primary season.


Benjamin Jealous, a former head of the NAACP who ran Sanders' campaign in Maryland, has encouraged other Sanders supporters to get behind Clinton.

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If Clinton hits the right notes Thursday, Jealous said, he believes many will do just that.

"It's not about the convention, it's about the country," he said. "If she comes across as authentic in her commitment to fight for the 99 percent and to keep the promises she's made on the campaign trail ... she will go a long way toward making the base of the party her base."

Perhaps because the state's Democratic congressional delegation has been united in its support for Clinton, Sanders delegates in Maryland have not taken part in the protests or walkouts that delegates from other states have organized.

"I'm definitely in a place where I feel the Bern and I'm willing to say that I stand with her," said Heather Mizeur, a superdelegate from Maryland and Sanders supporter who ran for governor in 2014.

"Maybe it's just because I'm a lesbian Catholic who has never left the church because I believe in fighting within an institution for change, but I don't believe in these purity tests," Mizeur said. "We got as much as we could get in the platform, and I'm willing to call that a victory."