Bernie Sanders delegates will leave the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia disappointed, but that is pretty common after such gatherings.
The question, which will not be answered until the Nov. 8 election, is how many eventually support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, how many will jump to a candidate such as Jill Stein of the Green Party and how many will be so frustrated that they will not vote.
Don Bye of Pequot Lakes has attended all but one national convention since the demonstration-plagued 1968 Chicago event and said backers of a defeated candidate often leave unhappy. At his first convention, Bye said, many supporters of U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota “walked out feeling very, very sour” after Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a former Minnesota U.S. senator, beat him for the party nomination.
“That gave us (President Richard) Nixon for too long,” Bye said.
While Bye, a long-time Duluth attorney and one-time Brainerd Junior College student, said he thinks Sanders convention delegates are beginning to accept Clinton as the party’s nominee, Sanders’ Minnesota supporters say that is not universal.
Karl Keene of Moorhead, a Sanders backer, said he will vote for Stein.
“I will never be a Hillary supporter,” he said. “I am going to be switching to the Green Party as soon as I am done with this convention. It is becoming the unDemocratic Party.”
Keene said internal Democratic leaders’ emails that were released recently proved that they did what they could to ensure a Clinton victory while Sanders remained competitive.
He called Clinton one of the most corrupt candidates ever, along with Republican nominee Donald Trump. He predicted a four-way presidential race, with many from the GOP going to Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and many of his fellow Democrats defecting to Stein.
That is not how it will work, countered delegate Debra Hogenson, who lived on a Nobles County farm for more than 40 years before recently moving to Waseca.
The U.S. Constitution, she said, was written so the country would have no political parties. It can support two parties, she added, but “the third parties always are going to be on the sidelines.”
Sandy Watters of Willmar said she plans to work for Democratic candidates, even if she is not happy with Clinton. Like Keene, she is upset with how Sanders supporters have been treated, but is glad to represent fellow Sanders fans.
“Of course, I feel frustrated,” she said. “But I also feel happy.”
“We don’t feel like that the party has fostered the unity that they expect the Sanders delegates to bring,” Watters said. “They have not done anything to show us that they have heard us. We have to let them know that is not OK.”
While Clinton delegates like Bye and Hogenson said the party platform has a lot of Sanders-backed provisions, Watters said a platform means little.
“We know the platform is just a piece of paper,” Watters said. “It is just sweet nothings.”
Still, she said, there is “a lot of good coming out” of the convention, too. “There is a lot of conversation happening.
Watters, at 24 attending her first national convention, and Bye, who turns 81 this fall, said those who support Sanders may not work for Clinton this fall, although Watters said there is work to do for other Democratic candidates.
Bye said that after McCarthy lost the nomination in 1968, it was almost the next election before he returned to help Democrats.
“People have different ways of grieving and need different times,” he said.
Bye is not concerned that Sanders delegates will back Trump.
“In any common sense comparison, anyone who is for Sanders, for what you would tend to call the most liberal part of the Democratic Party, should see the most wrong with the Republican choice and make the clearest contrast and the clearest comparison,” Bye said. “I am not worried about their vote.”
He is, however, concerned that they will not be as active in the campaign as they could be.
“We certainly share more in common with each other than we do with Republicans,” added Hogenson in a telephone interview from across the street from Independence Hall.
Hogenson said that she thought national Democratic Vice Chairman R.T. Rybak, a former Minneapolis mayor, won over Sanders supporters when he talked to the Minnesota delegation Tuesday morning. He talked about “the good things that the Bernie Sanders campaign brought to the Democratic Party and how those things strengthened the party.”
“They have improved democracy,” Hogenson said about Sanders supporters.
Bye said the first day of the convention began rough, with Sanders supporters booing as Clinton backers spoke. But things changed.
“It just unfolded about as good as you could ever expect,” Bye said. “The Sanders people, I think going in, knew they did not have the numbers to achieve the nomination. I think they went in accepting that, but still wanted to be heard, and were heard. The Clinton group accepted Sanders’ involvement in developing the rules, considering the credentials and coming out with agreement on a compromise platform.”
Boos and chanting that started the day died out later.
“It was a night-long healing action, I believe,” Bye said. “I think we had indications of that in Minnesota. There certainly were differences in Minnesota. In Minnesota, the Bernie Sanders groups were very successful.”
By the end of the night, “Bernie” chants became “Hillary-Bernie,” he said.
Keene saw little good about the convention.
“It is the coronation of the corporate queen,” Keene said Tuesday. “It went a little rough yesterday, but they are going to put on a facade of party unity, but there is almost half of the house who is not buying into it.”
Keene, who has been very active in Democratic politics since 2008, added: “You have a huge swath of progressive voters convinced the Democratic Party has moved so far to the right now … that it has become a corporate party.”
He said delegations like Minnesota, with a majority of Sanders delegates, are “being treated like second-class citizens. … Bernie people were pushed to the back.”
Keene feels so strongly about Clinton’s failings that he said “choosing Hillary probably is going to give Donald Trump the election.”
The Moorhead man said party leaders “have a lock” on power. “It is almost impossible to unseat them.”
Allowing elected and party officials to have their own votes, without following caucus results, is “just another indication of the rigged democratic system.”
Hogenson said that Democrats need to realize Republicans are the opponents, not fellow Democrats.
“Republicans, philosophically, have fallen off the edge of the earth,” she said.
Sanders and Clinton supporters have disagreed, she said. “If we can get past that rhetoric and look at reality, we will be fine. … There is a path for unity.”
“Whenever you have a contested election,” she said, “some people leave unhappy. Then they have to decide where their heart is.”
For Watters, it is important to represent Willmar-area Democrats who elected her to be a delegate.
“We were elected to represent the way Minnesota voted,” she said. “Unfortunately, our super delegates decided they would not represent the way voters voted.”
Super delegates are elected officials and party leaders who can vote for whatever candidate they wish. Sanders’ supporters have tried to change that and require all delegates to follow caucus voters, who went heavily for Sanders last March.
Many Sanders supporters have not decided what they will do in the presidential campaign, if anything, Watters said.
Watters said her feelings are mixed, unhappy about some things in the convention.
“We are the Democratic Party and this is a democratic process and that does not mean we agree all of the time,” she said.
The dispute is common for Democrats, who usually come together behind their nominee.
“I don’t think we are going to come out of the convention stronger,” Watters said.