© 2022 WYSO
Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bernie is Ready to Back Hillary but Some of his Delegates Remain Skeptical

Bernie Sanders strongly endorses Hillary Clinton, but some of his followers aren't ready to follow.
M.L. Schultze
Bernie Sanders strongly endorses Hillary Clinton, but some of his followers aren't ready to follow.

The call for Democratic Party unity fell short last night as delegates backing Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton chanted each other down within minutes of the start of the first night of the DNC in Philadelphia.

It was a tough first day on the job for Cleveland Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.

“I intend to be fair. I want to hear the varying opinions here. I am going to be respectful of you and I want you to be respectful of me," said Fudge, lecturing delegates throughout the hall who had broken into boisterous chants of “Bernie” that interrupted her first speech as chairwoman of the Democratic National Convention.

“We are all Democrats and we need to act like it. Let’s do it.”

But even Fudge’s role as head of the convention sprang from tension between the two Democratic camps. Fudge took over after Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign after leaks of emails confirmed for many Sanders delegates that the Democratic National Party had tilted the process Clinton’s way during the primary season.

And at least at first, even Bernie Sanders wasn’t able to soothe some of his own delegates. He met with them during the day for a mini-campaign rally that touched on all his themes, then asserted that Hillary Clinton is their best hope for reform and good government.

Some delegates booed.

Sanders delegate Bonny Graham of Kent was not among them, but says she’s still struggling with what to do, and to decide if changes Sanders delegates won in the convention platform and delegate rules are enough.

"Certainly an issue- based acknowledgment is what we got in the platform, and we made some progress. So I kind of take a big breath and I hold it and when I’m ready to breathe again, we’ll get back to work.”

Kurt Bateman of Columbus says the emails don’t bother him because Sanders supporters always though thought there was what he calls “a thumb on the scales.” He says the problem goes deeper than that.

"The committee meetings that our people  have been in, they felt like they were disrespected and discounted. We know what the outcome will probably be at the convention, (but) we’d like to see a little … be magananimous in your victory.”

Former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner embraced Sanders early and says the Democratic Party must acknowledge the value of Sanders’ supporters and apologize in some concrete way.

"And say something to the effect that I can’t control what happened in the past but I’m going to control what goes on in the future and have fairness and transparency and I need you. Some acknowledgement. . But to just be in this space and pretend everything is going to be OK just because the word unity is bandied about, it’s an illusion.”

Turner says she’s hoping she can help bridge the gap between the two camps this week.

Meanwhile, Clinton supporters in Ohio are holding onto hope that unity by Thursday remains possible. Tom Ritchey of the public sector union, AFSCME, says shared core beliefs make that likely:

“At the end of the day they’re like we are, they’re about working families and a great America. I think there’s not a way in the world any of those folks are going to go to the Trump camps.

But there are other options, including the Green Party.

“Those are choices they’ll have to make. But I think at the end of the day they’ll make the right choices and we’ll all be able to work together.

And some delegates are hoping the divisions are a sign of the strength of the party, not the weakness.

Mary Barrett, an adoption attorney from Lorain is a Clinton delegate.

“We need all voices to be heard. It’s sometimes messy, but we need all voices to be heard. And if you shut out one voice, it’s not going to work.” :12

And by night’s end, some of the Bernie voices seemed – if not more muted – perhaps more accepting. Susan Eacker, a retired history professor from Dayton, called the night bittersweet.

“The sweet part is the things that he’s talking about, if Hillary sticks with it, those things would not exist if Bernie had not been in campaign.”.

Earlier in the day, before she was battling the chants and jeers, convention chairwoman Marcia Fudge had expressed a similar sentiment not only for what happens inside Wells Fargo arena, but what happens with the protesters who have been marching along Philadelphia’s main streets.

“My job is to preside over something I believe is going to bring unity. And I think that once we come together here, those that are on the streets will come on board too.

Fudge has three more days of the Democratic convention to see if that happens.

M.L. Schultze came to WKSU as news director in July 2007 after 25 years at The Repository in Canton, where she was managing editor for nearly a decade. She’s now the digital editor and an award-winning reporter and analyst who has appeared on NPR, Here and Now and the TakeAway, as well as being a regular panelist on Ideas, the WVIZ public television's reporter roundtable.