Sarah Parrish still “Feels the Bern,” even as Sen. Bernie Sanders’ chances of securing the Democratic presidential nomination slim to a flicker.
“There’s still a lot of voters who haven’t had a chance to participate,” said Parrish, 34, who runs a small cleaning business in Merriam, Kansas. “My enthusiasm does not transfer over to Hillary Clinton.”
With only six Democratic primaries remaining and Clinton holding a sizable advantage over Sanders in convention delegates and superdelegates, supporters of the Vermont senator are confronting days of reckoning.
What will they do? Will they stick by Sanders to the end even if he loses the nomination, then sit on their hands in November? Will they vote for a third party candidate? Even support Donald Trump?
Or will they lick their wounds and get behind Clinton, a candidate they largely don’t trust because of her perceived coziness to the Wall Street establishment that they rail against?
The questions have taken on a greater urgency in the aftermath of a raucous Nevada Democratic Party convention earlier this month. The meeting exposed deep divisions and animosity between Sanders and Clinton supporters, and a lingering distrust between the Sanders camp and the Democratic National Committee for a perceived tilt toward Clinton.
“We have a lot of nurses in California and we believe that Bernie will win California and no one will come out of the primary season with enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination,” said Charles Idelson, a spokesman for National Nurses United, one of the first groups to endorse Sanders. “We definitely believe that Sanders has a path to the nomination.”
Only 66 percent of voters who prefer Sanders say they will support Clinton in a November match-up against Trump, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll revealed Monday. And 28 percent of Sanders voters said they wouldn’t support Clinton if she were the Democratic nominee, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.
Everybody’s talking about the math. I don’t think it’s fair to make that assessment.
Sarah Parrish, a Bernie Sanders supporter from Kansas
Those numbers aren’t lost on Trump. The celebrity billionaire, speaking last week at the National Rifle Association’s convention in Kentucky, said, “I think Bernie should run as an independent, OK?”
“Then it would be the three of us on the stage,” he added. “I love that.”
Marc Farinella, a Democratic strategist who managed President Barack Obama’s successful 2008 campaign in North Carolina, fears that a prolonged Democratic primary fight with Sanders might hurt Clinton heading into the general election.
“When viewers at home see Democrats expressing such hostility and such anger, calling people names and giving the finger and throwing chairs, it turns voters away from the party,” he said.
“The issue is not whether (Sanders) is entitled to continue his campaign; it’s not whether he has a good reason to continue his campaign. The problem is he is feeding the anger of some of his constituents, and to such a level that it poses a risk to the viability of a Democratic victory.”
Still, some Sanders supporters, such as Parrish, remain in a no-retreat, no-surrender mood.
She contends that all Democratic voters haven’t had their say yet, pointing to the June 7 California, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota primaries and caucuses.
She also believes that irregularities in places such as Brooklyn, New York, where the names of thousands of voters were reportedly purged from the rolls in a state that Clinton won, have denied voters their voice.
Sanders doesn’t realize he’s won. The argument in the Democratic Party is not whether to raise the minimum wage, it’s to raise it to $15 or $12. . . . He’s made Hillary a much better candidate.
Louis Agre, a Bernie Sanders delegate from Philadelphia
Other die-hard Sanders supporters declare that the Democratic electoral system has been rigged to ease Clinton’s glide path to the nomination – from initially scheduling only six Democratic debates at less-than-ideal viewing times to appointing Clinton loyalists to the convention platform committee.
“I cannot easily concede at this juncture,” Parrish said. “Bernie said he was going to run it all the way through. . . . I have a 6-year-old daughter. Her future rides on this vote.”
Sanders gained a key concession from the DNC on Monday, winning a larger voice on the party’s platform committee than had been expected. He was given five slots on the 15-member committee to Clinton’s six.
Sanders’ platform team consists of Cornel West, an African-American scholar and frequent Obama critic; Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; environmental activist and author Bill McKibben; James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute; and Native American activist Deborah Parker.
Chris Bedford, a 56-year-old Sanders supporter in California, said the anger displayed by Sanders supporters in Nevada showed that they didn’t intend to fall in line or go quietly.
“If things get to the point where there’s constant suppression, in our history we’ve shown that, hey, Americans get violent,” he said at a San Jose rally last week. “I hope it doesn’t get to that, but you cannot suppress people and expect them to go smiling along willingly.”
However, Louis Agre, a Sanders delegate, business representative and counsel for an International Union of Operating Engineers local in Philadelphia who’s also a Democratic ward leader, views Clinton as the inevitable nominee.
“Do you know where I live? In the real world,” said Agre, 61. “This is crazy. You can’t not vote for Hillary. Of course I’m going to help Hillary win; that’s ridiculous.”
John Fetterman, the Democratic mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, says, “I don’t care how fervent of a Bernie supporter you are, you’re not a bigger one than I am.”
“But at the end of the day, this is not about Bernie or you or me,” said Fetterman, whose wife, Gisele, is a Sanders delegate. “Right now, Hillary Clinton is the only thing standing between our country that I love and a train wreck.”
From his perch in Pennsylvania, long a reliable Democratic state in presidential elections, Fetterman sees the fall battle ahead.
“I see three Trump yard signs for every one for Hillary,” he said. “I have a unique sense of urgency.”
David Siders of The Sacramento Bee contributed to this article.