In the weeks before the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency was losing steam. But even as it became more and more apparent that Sanders was not going to receive the Democratic nomination for president, his supporters continued to fight for him and his political agenda. They chanted “Bernie or Bust” at rallies, stood by him as he endorsed Hillary Clinton on July 12 and even booed when Sanders gave another speech supporting Clinton on the first day of the DNC.
Four weeks after the DNC and roughly two months before the general election, we caught up with three former Sanders’ supporters to find out how they felt now that Sanders is officially out of the race. Though members of Bernie’s CWRU—an undergraduate organization that was formed in the fall of 2015 to support Sanders’ campaign, and that was disbanded after Clinton’s nomination—are now scattered, they are still very much politically active. And with Election Day rapidly approaching, some students—especially Clinton supporters—are even more active than they were before.
When asked about Clinton’s nomination, Jaimee Miller, a third-year political science student and former president of “Bernie’s CWRU”, said, “‘I wasn’t ‘Bernie or bust.’ It was more just sadness.”
This seems to be a common theme with former members of Bernie’s CWRU, who Miller says now support Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Clinton in equal measure.
“About half our regulars went to Jill Stein. The other half went to Hillary,” she said. “Most of the people who went to Hillary went over begrudgingly. They would vote for Jill Stein if they could, but they’re registered in Ohio.”
Though it’s not impossible for people registered in Ohio to vote for Stein—she’s on the ballot—many former Sanders’ supporters are reluctant to cast a vote for a third-party candidate in such an important swing state.
This includes second-year student Andrew Thompson, member of Spartans For Hillary, a new undergraduate organization, who said, “it’s important to consider how close the race is in Ohio…. I respect my fellow Bernie supporters for staying true to their ideals … [but] I don’t think they’re going about it the right way.”
Thompson helped create the undergraduate organization Spartans for Hillary in an effort to bring liberals together in support of Clinton. In addition to weekly discussion on the Democratic Party’s platform and Clinton’s policy promises, Spartans for Hillary runs nonpartisan voter registration drives on and around campus, participates in phone banking for Hillary’s campaign, and will attempt to organize students to early vote. Thompson said the organization is also reaching out to nontraditional Democrats.
“[We want] to try and bring people in from the far left,” Thompson said. “Especially people who are young enough that they wouldn’t call themselves Democrats because they’re young enough to not have participated in the last election. They were big Bernie supporters and kind of thought that was the end of the line. We want to encourage them to come out for Hillary.”
Despite the fact that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is also setting himself up as an alternative to a major party candidate—Donald Trump—Thompson believes that with Stein running, third party votes are going to “hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans.”
Although Thompson still thinks Clinton has a pretty good chance of winning the election, he said, “I think the more we think Hillary is going to win, the less likely it is…. It’s dangerous to become apathetic.”
“The number one thing we can learn [from the British referendum to leave the European Union], is that polls do not always predict the future,” he continued. “Maybe if more people had voted [in Britain], especially young people, the outcome would be different.”
Michael Steere, a fifth-year electrical engineering student and former member of Bernie’s CWRU seems to agree, with one small exception: He supports Stein.
“I can’t really fault people who feel like their vote won’t matter,” Steere said, “I just wish people would look around and see how many people are saying that. We have so many people saying their vote won’t matter. If all of them voted for Jill Stein, it would.”
Steere understands that people want to vote strategically, urges them to consider what their vote means to them, adding, “It’s never throwing away your vote if it’s what you believe in.”
Like Thompson, Steere doesn’t think it’s likely Stein will win. But he supports her platform, and after the controversy surrounding the DNC and Clinton’s candidacy, he can’t imagine supporting Clinton.
Where Thompson considers himself a Democrat, and was always resolved to vote for whomever won the DNC’s nomination, Steere says that the strength of his Democratic affiliation changed after the DNC. Though he grew up identifying as a Democrat, he thinks of the Democratic Party less positively now. He looks at the individuals running, not at their party affiliation.
“I would love to see some form of alternative voting, such as ranked voting or instant-runoff voting,” Steere said. These are two types of electoral system changes that can encourage and support multiple parties, as opposed to just two. “Just to give people the option, to let people vote what they truly feel without their vote not mattering….”
Miller, as an Independent, said that she doesn’t yet know whom she’ll be voting for in November. “It just feels so wasted no matter what,” she said. “Voting for Hillary is a waste because I’m not voting my conscience, but if I vote for Jill Stein, it’s also wasted.”
Though Miller doesn’t believe that any vote for a third party is a wasted vote, she’s registered in Maryland, and said that Clinton will inevitably win the state. According to fivethirtyeight.com, a website developed by statistician Nate Silver that use polls from various sources to make its predictions, Clinton has a 99.7 percent chance of winning the state.
“We’re in a dangerous time,” Miller concluded, “It’s freaky. But we can’t let people use that to intimidate us. It’s ok to be scared, but don’t be intimidated…. Follow the polls and vote your conscience.”