‘Still Bernie’ backers want to take fight to Democratic convention

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with wife Jane by his side, walks out of his home to speak during a news conference Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Burlington, Vt.
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with wife Jane by his side, walks out of his home to speak during a news conference Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Burlington, Vt. AP

Janice Thomasson took stock of the talk during the People’s Summit and didn’t like what she was hearing during the weekend gathering of supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Too many people – summit attendees and speakers – seemed to be throwing in the towel, declaring Sanders’ White House aspirations dead and acquiescing to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

"Hell, no, it’s not over for me," said Thomasson, a 69-year Sanders convention delegate from Kentucky. "I’m forever Bernie."

Thomasson was among a group of about 25 people who met under a "Still Bernie" sign Sunday during breakout group sessions at the summit. The small but passionate group brainstormed how to push Sanders’ candidacy at the Democratic National Convention next month in Philadelphia.

There’s a tenth of one percent chance I’d vote for her

Bernie Sanders supporter John Flaherty on Hillary Clinton

The election isn’t over, they declared. The Democratic Party’s primary system was rigged against Sanders, they charged. The Associated Press impacted the California primary’s outcome when it declared the day before the state’s election that Clinton already had enough delegates to secure the nomination, they complained.

"I know what my people in Kentucky want," Thomasson said. "They don’t want me to vote for Hillary."

John Flaherty, 63, from Boston, called the summit "disheartening" because he thought that "too many people, even from the podium, are saying ‘Well, I’ll have to go for Hillary."

"There’s no reason to do that now before the convention," said Flaherty, who wore a blue "Sanders for President" baseball cap. "It’s hurting any shade of hope of Bernie getting in. And there’s still a shade of hope."

Though down in the delegate count, Sanders remains in the presidential race. In a 24-minute video Thursday, he vowed to continue his "political revolution" and added that he looks "forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party." He didn’t endorse Clinton’s campaign.

In Chicago, summit attendees and speakers praised the accomplishments of Sanders’ campaign and expressed disappointment and vowed that the movement he helped galvanize will carry on after he exits the race.

They registered their disdain for Clinton and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., whom they accuse of heavily favoring Clinton over Sanders.

I think we have an enormous problem here because no one believes anything that anyone from the campaign says

National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro on Clinton campaign

When asked what it would take for Sanders supporters to get behind Clinton, RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director for National Nurses United, said Saturday that "people would have to suspend belief in order to actually feel that Clinton actually cares about their issues."

DeMaro acknowledged at the opening of the summit on Friday that "Bernie’s run for (the) presidency fell short."

Some summit speakers stressed the need for attendees to work to help defeat presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in November.

"If Trump is even marginally successful it’s going to spawn hundreds of Trump wannabes, and progressives in 2018 will be in this game of Whac-a-Mole," said Becky Bond, a digital organizer who worked for Sanders’ campaign.

But for Christopher Horton, who traveled from Worcester, Mass., to Chicago for the summit, it’s all about Sanders above anything else.

"They sent me here with a mission to fight," Horton told his "Still Bernie" brethren. "You do not just pull a plug on a revolution."

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas