Many Delegates Still Feel the Bern at the Democratic National Convention

Unlike Never Trump delegates at the RNC, some Sanders delegates rallied around their candidate.

PHILADELPHIA — Although seven out of ten Americans agree that the country is moving in the wrong direction, the Republican and Democratic parties have nominated two of the most statistically unfavorable candidates in modern American political history. Outspoken critics of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton attended their party's conventions over the past two weeks, another rarity in modern politics.

But without a candidate to organize around, many members of the Never Trump movement made a statement by staying away from the party gathering in Cleveland. Sen. Ted Cruz was even booed during his speech at the Republican National Convention after he urged Republicans to "vote your conscience" and refused to endorse Trump.

Bernie Sanders supporters, however, made their case all week in Philadelphia, leading to a convention with more disturbances and more tension.

"We're fighting for single payer health care and to get rid of the death penalty. Hillary is for the death penalty. Hillary is for fracking, for for-profit prison," Jonathan Schnitzer, a Bernie Sanders delegate, said just before Clinton officially received the Democratic nomination.

"The fact that the DNC colluded with Hillary Clinton and went after Bernie and his religion, that's a fascist thing to do," he said. "Forty-five percent of all registered voters are independent voters. It's bigger than the Democrats, and it's bigger than Republicans. (Gallup has found the proportion of registered independents to be 42 percent.)

Sanders supporters were evident all week during the convention in Philadelphia that was supposed to help unite the party after a long primary season. On Monday, they disturbed speeches at the California delegation breakfast, shouting "count our votes." During Clinton's speech Thursday night, they wore glowing yellow shirts in protest and held signs, including a big banner reading "#Wikileaks," a reference to the email leaks that showed Democratic party officials favoring Clinton.

"You don't have to worry about me," said Schnitzer on party loyalty. "You have to worry about the millions of 20- and 30-year-olds, people who have never been involved in the process before who are now turned off to the DNC completely and are going, 'Wow, that's the party that fixed the election.' I've been [a] 'no party preference' [voter] my entire life. Bernie Sanders inspired me so much that I joined this movement. I'll tell you now: I wasn't in the Democratic Party before this, and this isn't inspiring me to be a member of the Democratic Party after."

Jose Jimenez, a Clinton delegate and one of her whip captains, strongly opposes the attitude of the Sanders supporters. Jimenez supported Obama in 2008 and has backed Clinton this year out of a fear of "the worst person in America."

"If I'm looking at the presidency like a job, like I'm leading a search committee trying to find the best person for the job, [Clinton's] got the credentials and the history to do it well," he said. "Bernie is qualified. I will never not admit that. He's a charismatic leader. We know he's going to bring so much as he already has to this party. He brought voters who would've never come here. I just don't think he's as qualified as Hillary to lead."

While Jimenez feels sympathetic to the Sanders camp, his understanding only extends so far.

"What I need to remind [Sanders delegates] of is that if you're here as a delegate, it's because you like the Democratic Party," he said. "In the long run, we Democrats have been through so much."

This war between pragmatism and principle has manifested in a distinction between anti-Trump and pro-Clinton Democrats, with some party members who claim to be anti-Trump not supporting Clinton.

"I would support [Green Party presidential nominee Jill] Stein or Sanders over any of them," said Erin Stillson Wolf, an attendee at what was essentially an anti-Clinton rally. "Voting for the greater good is the only way to change anything. Voting for the lesser evil got us here, at the break of a revolt against the Democratic Party and against the two party system."

While the Stein and Sanders base is fervent, it may not ultimately hold much weight, with Stein polling at three percent. While anti-Trump Clinton supporters expressed fear of those Democrats' disloyalty, some of Clinton's most fervent supporters have more confidence.

"The number of Hillary delegates who said in 2008 they wouldn't vote for Obama was actually higher than the number of Bernie supporters [this year]. So I think we have to treat them with respect," CE Cole Dillon, a Clinton delegate from Illinois, said.

"We have to mourn the loss and give them time to really focus on what's going on, and then I think after Labor Day — when the campaign gets in full swing — it'll change," she said. "Their primary complaint is that they feel like they haven't been listened to. We already won, so what do we have to lose by listening to them?"

Dillon's self-assurance and belief in Clinton, whom she's supported since her 2008 run for president, stood in stark contrast to an election cycle characterized by hatred of the other side.

"She doesn't go around beating her chest about what she does. She goes around doing it," Cole Dillon said. "When she was the first lady of the United States, her chief of staff was a black woman, Maggie Williams. As secretary of state, her chief of staff was black woman. For black women [like me], she does not go to clear a path for us, she goes with us and takes us all ahead. And we are there in all the things she does. We support her because she supports us, and that's why I'm for Hillary."

Reach Contributor Tiana Lowe here, or follow her on Twitter.