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Outside the Democratic convention, opposition to Clinton makes itself heard

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., march during a protest in downtown on Sunday, July 24, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Democratic National Convention starts Monday in Philadelphia.
Image Credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo
July 25, 2016 - 1:00 PM

PHILADELPHIA - Republicans who dislike Donald Trump were mostly discreet at last week's nominating convention. They grumbled in private conversations, expressed their unease through hand gestures, or jeered a procedural call by party brass.

It's noisier on the left.

The progressive brigade that refuses to march behind Hillary Clinton is loud, proud and in the streets at the Democratic convention. What was ostensibly a march for climate change Sunday included plenty of T-shirts for her primary opponent Bernie Sanders, for the Green party's Jill Stein, and little discernible trace of support for her.

In fact, there appeared to be a greater number of anti-Clinton protest signs like, "Not With Her," and "Never Hillary," in a visual demonstration of the challenge ahead for Clinton in uniting progressive voters.

That difficulty was underscored inside the official convention too. The party chair who supports Clinton was forced to resign, pushed out by the leak of emails showing an institutional bias during the primaries. There were also whispers about a possible convention protest against Clinton's choice of vice-presidential running mate.

And then there are voters like Valerie Duhl.

She's a Floridian who's supported Democrats for 22 years, but not this time. At a rally Sunday for an assortment of environmental causes like opposition to oil pipelines, fracking, and other issues like genetically modified food and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, she said she's done.

When asked whether she worried that her choice might help deliver Florida to Donald Trump — and with it, the presidency — she didn't hesitate for a second.

"No," Duhl said.

"We are not going to vote for the lesser of two evils. We are going to vote for principles. We don't vote out of fear... I will not vote out of fear."

She's among those hoping Sanders pulls off some convention miracle and becomes the nominee. Assuming that doesn't happen — a safe bet — she said she'll vote for the Green party's Jill Stein.

Many moderates still blame the Green party's Ralph Nader for handing Florida and the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000. But Duhl said she can't support Clinton's policy flip-flops and behaviour over the years, or what she views as corruption within the Democratic party.

It's an article of faith among vast swaths of Sanders' disciples that the presidential nomination was stolen. This despite Clinton winning one-quarter more votes and nearly a dozen more states and territories.

Her lead was virtually insurmountable in May — which is when an email got sent from one party official wondering whether someone should slur Sanders as an atheist before votes in the Bible belt.

There were already hints of bias, such as the odd timing of televised debates. But the leak of those emails spurred new calls for the resignation of the party chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Sanders himself called for her removal. She obliged Sunday, announcing she'll be gone after the convention.

Inside the convention, a Sanders delegate told The Associated Press there are serious discussions about challenging Clinton's pick of Tim Kaine as her running mate. Norman Solomon said there's talk of walking out during Kaine's acceptance speech or turning their backs. Although Sanders has had kind words about him, some of his supporters say he isn't progressive enough.

Sanders is also supporting Clinton in the general election. Again, some fans aren't following him.

Mary Andriotakis said she's voted for only one Democrat, Jimmy Carter in 1976, and never since. She would have voted for Sanders but is now searching for another option. She said the Democratic party's off that list.

"I've seen it slide further and further to the right, every effin' election. To the point Hillary and her supporters sound like the Republicans I heard 40 years ago. And the right has just gone off the cliff."

Considerable political science research suggests the story is more complicated than that. Researchers who track congressional votes show the Democrats moving slightly left in recent years, with Republicans moving more drastically toward the right.

She also expresses doubt about the polls. Surveys show a clear majority of former Sanders supporters shifting to Clinton, although it's an open question whether she'll get enough of them to turn out on Nov. 8.

"I think the media's putting out this propaganda (about Sanders supporters backing Clinton), and the DNC (too)," she said. "The people I see and talk to, they're just like, 'No way, we're not doing it.'"

Andriotakis said she doubts Clinton's commitment to progressive causes, including those represented in Sunday's protest. She said her most important cause is getting corporate money out of politics. This is something Clinton promises to pursue, through Supreme Court appointments and an attempted constitutional amendment.

She does worry about Trump. She says her own voting dilemma is alleviated by the fact she lives in solid-blue Massachusetts, where she says Trump can't win. So she says she can afford to vote her conscience, for parties like the Greens.

What if she lived in Ohio? Or, for that matter, in Duhl's sunny swing state?

"Things might be different," Andriotakis said.

"I'd have to make some hard choices."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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