PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton has several problems in Philadelphia, and an Uber driver named Karl Fredericksen is one of them.
“I won’t give up on him,” says Fredericksen as he barrels down the freeway in the direction of the Wells Fargo Center. “I still think there’s a huge chance. The super delegates haven’t voted yet.”
“Him” is, of course, Bernie Sanders. He has 1,000 fewer pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton, but he is just moments away from becoming president, if you listen to the activists who have come here Feeling a Bern, which at this point, has got to seem more like jock itch to the establishment DNC.
“Yep,” Fredericksen says. “I’m definitely going to vote for Bernie.”
The Democratic National Committee spent Sunday and Monday imploding — a leaked-email scandal, the resignation of the party chief — and then all of them got in their cars and planes and came here to find a city where the most visible liberals are wearing buttons that don’t say “I’m With Her,” but rather “Hillary for Prison.” Bipartisanship at last: These were popular in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention, too.
On street corners, people hold signs reading “Always be yourself, unless you can be Bernie. Then definitely be Bernie.” In marches that weave through Center City, people chant “Hell No, Hillary.”
The Bernie or Bust people have arrived. The Bernies never say die.
“We won’t vote for anyone but Bernie,” says Kristi Zola, who came down from Vermont wearing a Bernie or Bust T-shirt. “Hopefully he’ll win!”
The Bernies have set up tent cities throughout Philadelphia as hubs of protest. At one tent city in North Philadelphia, a plot has been hatched to feed all of the Bernie-supporting delegates who visit the camp lots of baked beans before they go into the arena, so that they can unleash a methane wrath on everyone else. This plan is called “The Fart-In.”
(The whole city smells like a Fart-In, dear God. The heat index was 109 degrees on Monday and trash was liquifying in the street.)
At another tent city down in South Philadelphia, occupants have named themselves the Occupirates Camp, a clutch of a half dozen tents huddled beneath a skull and crossbones flag.
“Hell . . . no, I won’t vote for Hillary,” says Chris Siennick of Harrisburg, Pa. “She’s a warmonger.”
“Hashtag Never Hillary!” someone yells from inside a nearby tent.
“Hillary is worse than Trump,” says Max Neely of Frederick, Md. “Trump’s rhetoric is bad, but Hillary is dangerous because of what she can get done.”
The Republican Party just suffered several stress fractures because it ignored its mainstream base in favor of the outsider candidate. Now the Democrats have picked the establishment candidate, and they are rewarded with a Fart-In.
The thing the Bernies would like to convey is that the Bernies are bigger than Bernie, who is also bigger than himself. Bernie, here in Philadelphia, is an ideal. That ideal is a bright light in a world that is chaotic and depressing. “Capitalism as an idea is unsustainable,” says a man named Xander, as he sits in the grass outside of a third tent city. (At this tent city, journalists are asked to prove they are not policemen by eating a non-GMO peach, for reasons that are unclear because at this point our notes just read, “Guy without beard says, ‘A Snickers bar does not equal the Taj Mahal.’” Peach eaten.)
Back to Xander: “Before we turned things into commodities, there were just leaves, and feathers and wood. And then some enterprising person came and chopped down a tree and turned it into a chair and decided it cost $8.”
Xander shakes his head at the uselessness of it all. Xander will not provide his last name; he does not want to be Googleable. “Despite the fact that I think the end of the world is coming, I still feel that my ability to prepare for it will be better if nobody else knows I feel that way,” he explains.
The Bernies. Sigh.
The Bernies know that they are frequently viewed as spoilers who won’t get in line, whose refusal to unify the party will lead to a Democratic loss in November. “People keep looking down on us in our Bernie Sanders swag,” says Manuel Zapata, a Bernie delegate, when he speaks at a news conference at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Monday. “As if he’s not still a candidate. As if we’re not supposed to support him.”
Addendum: Bernie Sanders himself asked people not to support him. He endorsed Hillary Clinton. On Monday at the Philadelphia Convention Center, he got in front of a crowd of ardent supporters and said, “We have to elect Hillary Clinton.” Some of the crowd booed him, undeterred in their love for him.
Earlier at a rally, one of his supporters at a rally addressed the fact that he was determined to continue on supporting Bernie. “People say that Bernie endorsed Hillary, so why can’t you?” he asked into a microphone.
“BECAUSE SHE SUCKS,” a voice responded.
“SHE SUCKS A LOT,” said someone else.
Ben Terris contributed to this report.