Can Bernie Sanders voters come to trust Hillary Clinton?
The answer could decide whether she wins the White House.
Sanders’ convention supporters are angry over their treatment, suspicious of a system that seemed designed to thwart them and despondent over their choices in November.
They view Clinton as too beholden to corporate interests, and they’re not sure she can be trusted on her promises.
“She needs to show she can stand up to corporate America,” said Ingrid Olson, a Sanders delegate from Council Bluffs, Iowa.
They recall how she called the Trans-Pacific Partnership the “gold standard” of international trade agreements, then opposed it as Sanders crept closer. They dislike her choice of Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., as her running mate because they think he’s too moderate. Someone closer to Sanders’ philosophy would have been an olive branch.
“She had an opportunity to get Bernie supporters if she had been more realistic,” said Wayne Lewis, a Sanders delegate from Galloway, New Jersey.
She needs to find a way, and the party needs to find a way, to keep the millennials in this party.
Alan Haffa, a California Sanders delegate
Meanwhile, Republican nominee Donald Trump has proved to be more durable and acceptable than most Democrats ever imagined. Interviews with dozens of Sanders voters suggest they’re unlikely to support the New York billionaire. But a turnout for Clinton in November minus the sizable millennial bloc that supported Sanders in the primaries might not be enough. She would need a stronger-than-usual showing among traditional Democratic voters, including minorities and women, several experts said.
“She needs to find a way, and the party needs to find a way, to keep the millennials in this party,” said Alan Haffa, 51, a Sanders delegate from Monterey, California. “They can’t be dismissed. They have legitimate grievances.”
Four of the biggest swing states have some of the highest potential youth-turnout rates – Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio, according to a study by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement at Tufts University, which examines youth voting trends.
In New Hampshire, for instance, it found, “Young people who are reached out to by candidates and campaigns vote at a higher rate.” Pennsylvania has online registration. Ohio has a higher ratio of young voters with children, making them more interested in child care, health care and education issues.
“It’s going to be difficult” to get them out for Clinton, said Andrew Smith, the director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Most are participating in their first campaign, and they won’t overcome their disappointment easily.
Millennials are now the largest voting bloc, at 70 million. They made up 17 percent of the vote in the 2012 election, with a turnout rate of 42 percent. Sanders routinely tripled or quadrupled Clinton’s under-30 votes in the primaries. Can she win without them?
“It matters what the turnout is. How excited does she get them?” said Terry Madonna, the director of Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall College Poll. “It would be difficult. Everything else would have to be working for her.”
Elections matter. We didn’t get the delegates. Without the delegates, we have to accept the consequences.
Wanda Schwerer, a Florida Sanders delegate
Norman Solomon, the national coordinator of Delegates for Bernie, said Sanders backers were heartened that Clinton had endorsed the party platform, which embraces some of their causes. There’s support for free tuition at public colleges and universities for middle- and lower-income families. And there’s a path for universal health care.
But even with their leader’s full embrace of Clinton on Monday night, and his call for his backers to do the same, their goal isn’t party unity, Solomon said.
“You can’t transfer every vote just because the candidate has endorsed,” said Paul Kirk, a former U.S. senator and Democratic National Committee chairman.
If there is a split among Sanders’ devotees over supporting Clinton, it might be about their political experience and age.
Wanda Schwerer, a 66-year-old Sanders supporter from Belleair, Florida, said that one of her roommates at the convention, a Sanders delegate as well, told her Monday to go buy a “Hillary” shirt because when her name went into nomination Tuesday night, “We’re wearing our Hillary shirts.”
“I’ve been a Democrat for so long that I understand the process,” said Schwerer, who served on the party platform committee. “Elections matter. We didn’t get the delegates. Without the delegates, we have to accept the consequences. We’ve just got to do what Bernie says: Buckle down and keep working and maybe we can fix it, if not in 2020, then in 2024.”