PHILADELPHIA – After Hillary Clinton was nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president on Tuesday, a Texas delegate waiting for the bus said the supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders sitting behind her had taken an early exit.
“That’s their right,” she said with a thin smile.
Tuesday night was biography night for Clinton and an official close to the presidential primary, after Sanders gallantly moved her to be nominated by acclimation from the convention floor. It was a historic night, one of cracked glass ceilings and much talk of America on its way to becoming a better place.
But if Clinton loses in November, maybe Tuesday night will be remembered as the one when a number of Sanders’ delegates walked out of the convention and were greeted by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president who welcomed them with open tweets.
How many delegates walked out? Walkout organizers say in the hundreds. By the time former President Bill Clinton warmed up the old speech muscles, many seats were filled again. But many dozens of walkout delegates were seen surrounded by media and police officers when they occupied a media filing center and the area around it next to the Wells Fargo Center.
Delegates on the outside slammed their Bernie signs and delegate credentials up against the glass window separating them from much of the media. Nine or so sat in a circle with black tape around their mouths.
“This is what it looks like to be oppressed,” said Jose Caballero, a California delegate, pointing at the self-silenced Sanders supporters.
Caballero and other walkers out were talking about tactical issues within the convention—the signing of pledges, the confiscation of signs. But also the larger sense of “election fraud,” a much chanted phrase, and the idea (partially confirmed by Democratic National Committee email leaks this week) that some DNC staffers had been against Sanders from the beginning. So many of them said they’d worked too hard to be here, to get Sanders to where he ended up. They wanted to do their delegate duties in the end.
And they did — they performed the roll call. Then many left.
There is a small but focused fury directed at Clinton here that wouldn’t seem out of place at the Republican National Convention. Some of the issues raised by the delegates are legitimate — unhappiness with platform compromises, perhaps — others are rooted in a deep distrust of the Clintons that is impossible to untangle from decades of narratives.
It’s likely the convention will move on now with or without these Sanders dissenters, but some might stop and think what their continued protest will mean.
During the heat of the walkout, one delegate stood watching warily, what appeared to be her torn inner state exemplified by the “I Love Bernie” and “Hillary” pins on opposite side of her chest. She said that Sanders had convinced her to turn to Clinton. She said she didn’t necessarily agree with the protesting delegates. But there was “certainly a grieving process going on.”
A more fervent fellow Floridian delegate felt differently. “The whole election was stolen,” she said.
Eventually the fervent fan left the waverer alone, to watch the walkout unfold while the convention continued inside.