PHILADELPHIA — If Bernie Sanders gets his way, the first day of the Democratic National Convention will be a tribute to his presidential primary campaign, a celebration of a “political revolution” that leaves nothing but good feelings.
Bernie Sanders is not getting his way.
While the senator from Vermont calls for Democrats to unite behind Hillary Clinton — whom he endorsed two weeks ago — thousands of his supporters have arrived in Philadelphia to protest the results of the primaries. Not even the resignation of Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which Sanders had called for since spring, has gotten every Sanders supporter on board.
Some, including activists who attended a “People’s Convention” on Saturday or walked in a climate march on Sunday afternoon, are planning to back a third-party candidate. Others are dreaming of ways to deny Clinton or her running mate, Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (Va.), their nominations.
None of that is sanctioned by Sanders. In interviews on three Sunday shows, Sanders offered measured praise for Kaine, and declined to link Clinton to the hacked Democratic National Committee emails showing disdain toward and dismissal of his campaign.
“The immediate focus has got to be that a disastrous candidate like Donald Trump cannot be elected,” Sanders said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to the Republican nominee and deflecting a question about the hack. “My second message is that we continue the political revolution and fight for a government that represents all of us, and not just the 1 percent, fight to break up the banks on Wall Street, fight for a Medicare-for-all single-payer system, fight to rebuild our infrastructure and create millions of decent jobs, fight for real criminal justice and immigration reform.”
Aides say Sanders will use his speech Monday night to make the case for electing Clinton, and to call for the continuation of the “revolution” he started — a campaign that won 22 primary contests and pushed the party’s platform significantly to the left.
Sanders also is expected to focus heavily on the issues at the core of his campaign, including steps to attack income inequality. In the weeks since Clinton all but clinched the nomination, Sanders has worked with her campaign to incorporate several of his policy initiatives, including plans to offer free college tuition to many families and expand access to government-run health insurance.
Both issues are expected to earn mentions in the speech. On Monday, delegates will also hear from Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), and Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), Sanders’s highest-profile supporters in Congress, the latter two having led the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
But many Sanders delegates wanted more, and are looking at different ways to revolt. On Sunday morning, Norman Solomon, a progressive author and Sanders delegate from California, held a news briefing on the new Bernie Delegates Network, an association of 1,250 convention delegates whom he intended to organize for protests on the floor. Eighty-eight percent of them, Solomon said, opposed the Kaine pick; only 300 delegates were needed to nominate a rival candidate from the floor.
“It is not inappropriate,” Solomon said. “It is not disrespectful; it is unifying to find out what the best unifying ticket is.”
Solomon could not name a rival candidate who would join the fight — the most-mentioned progressive alternatives to Kaine, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), are friends of Kaine and supporters of the ticket. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sanders said that Kaine is more conservative than him but is “100 times better” than Trump.
“Would I have preferred to see someone like an Elizabeth Warren selected by Secretary Clinton? Yes, I would have,” Sanders said.
But disappointment with Kaine persisted as Democrats arrived in the city and attended early committee meetings, and not all were as ready as Sanders to move on.
“In a word, I’m unexcited,” said John Bickel, a Sanders delegate from Hawaii. “I teach a government class, and when I need an example of a moderate, I use Tim Kaine.”
The most disgruntled Sanders supporters found a home at the weekend’s major activist events, blocks from the convention center. At the People’s Convention, held in a Quaker meeting hall, some Sanders supporters proposed their own platform. Lacking air conditioning, they fanned themselves with copies of socialist newspapers and signs with slogans such as “Never Crooked Hillary” and “#BernieOrBust.”
“I’m hoping for a contested Democratic convention and a huge Democratic exit — we call it #DemExit,” said Ambra Dwight, a Nevada caucus-goer who’d traveled to Philadelphia for protests. “The party clearly is broken. It’s not a party of the people anymore.”
Late in the day, the convention got a visit from Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
“I’m putting out another line to Bernie in light of this email scandal,” Stein said. “I hope we ask Bernie to please consider withdrawing his endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Based on the outright, purposeful sabotage of your campaign by the DNC, and by Hillary Clinton, they do not deserve anybody’s votes!”
More Stein fans attended a Sunday march against fracking, which took thousands of people across the city in the baking summer sun. Asked if Sanders’s endorsement of Clinton made them confident about the party, many said no.
“People feel betrayed,” said Yakov Kronrod, a disgruntled Green Party voter carrying a #DemExit sign during the march. “He stood for everything she didn’t.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” however, Sanders said outright that he would not support a third-party candidate, and he made a coded appeal to anyone who supported him to stick it out with the Democrats.
“This is a very momentous moment in American history,” he said. “To my mind, what is most important now is the defeating of the worst candidate for president that I have seen in my lifetime, Donald Trump.”
Most of Sanders’s delegates were inclined to agree with him, but supporters of Clinton have been surprised as even minor slights set off heated arguments. A Sunday meeting of the party’s credentials committee, which heard challenges to the seating of some Clinton delegates, spent more than an hour on the fate of a Sanders delegate from Maine. Toward the end of the meeting, before Wasserman Schultz’s resignation became known, a Sanders delegate from Iowa rose to make another heated point. Party members were referring to Clinton as “the nominee,” and not as the “presumptive” nominee.
“We don’t have a nominee, because Bernie Sanders hasn’t conceded yet,” said Courtney Rowe. “I’m telling you, as a Bernie Sanders supporter, it’s very important that this process play out fairly and justly, because there are already enough rumors about things that were not carried out fairly and justly.”
Kayla Epstein contributed to this report.