"It's a Bittersweet Time": Some Sanders Backers Stay Inside DNC, Now Plan to Support Hillary Clinton

July 27, 2016

As Hillary Clinton secured the party’s presidential nomination Tuesday night, Democracy Now! was on the floor of the convention speaking to delegates and political leaders from around the country who formerly backed Bernie Sanders and now plan to support Clinton, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo, and Jesús "Chuy" García, former Chicago mayoral candidate. "This is really not necessarily about the individual," says Carol Ammons, an Illinois state representative who introduced Sanders when he spoke in her district. "It is truly about the ideas."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, This is "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." We’re broadcasting from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, as Hillary Clinton secured the party’s presidential nomination last night, Democracy Now! was on the floor of the convention speaking to delegates and political leaders from around the country. I had a chance to speak to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and others.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What’s your sense of Bernie’s speech last night and what you’re hoping to come out of tonight?

RICHARD TRUMKA: I thought it was a great speech. It was a great unifying speech, a great progressive speech. He’s had a tremendous influence on the platform. He’s had a tremendous influence on the direction of the party. I take my hats off to him. He’s a good friend. But right now we’ve got one job to do. That’s elect Hillary Clinton president and beat Donald Trump. He would be a disaster for this country.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the narrative that’s being created that Trump is going to win more and more of the white working class, as a labor leader, what do you think about that?

RICHARD TRUMKA: I think it’s preposterous. I think the only votes he’s going to get, he’s already got. We’re going to get the votes. We’re going to win big in the labor movement, win big in working America, and Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United states.

PETER BUCKLAND: My name is Peter Buckland.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And where are you from?

PETER BUCKLAND: State College, Pennsylvania.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you’re a Clinton or Sanders supporter?

PETER BUCKLAND: I’m a Sanders delegate.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And do you think he captured basically the achievements of the Bernie supporters and of his movement in the speech?

PETER BUCKLAND: Yes, I do think that he did. Of course, there are things that kind of—that don’t quite make it in, because of the differences in the platform. And I think that he played it kind of safe, so that we were—so that he could focus on the unity of the party. And, you know, now the job is on us. I’m a local elected official, and so the job is on me, in part, to work with my community, to work with people in Pennsylvania, to enact a kind of platform that works for people, works for our—and works for our environment.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And are you going to be voting for Hillary Clinton or what?


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’m here with Gil Cedillo, a city councilman from Los Angeles and a Bernie Sanders—


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —supporter, the first Latino elected official in L.A. to back Sanders.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And do you think his appeal for folks to rally behind Hillary Clinton will resonate with all of the Sanders supporters or most of them?

COUNCILMEMBER GIL CEDILLO: With most of them, there’s no doubt. You know, polls show her somewhere between 75 to 90 percent of his supporters. And I think with his work the last two days, which has been incredible, that will continue to make the progress we need. But I think he’s very clear that we cannot forget it’s not just about electing Senator Hillary Clinton and what that means for the history of this nation, first woman, but there really is this incredibly grave danger of Donald Trump, and a fascist, by definition, a divisive hatemonger who is so close to the presidency, that this is a threat not only to our nation, but to the world.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’m here with Chuy García, Cook County commissioner, former mayoral candidate in Chicago, also a Bernie Sanders delegate. Talk about, first, Bernie Sanders’ speech last night, what you thought about it, and where you think that the movement that you’ve been a part of is going to go from here on.

JESÚS "CHUY" GARCÍA: Does the revolution move forward with Donald Trump as president or with Hillary Clinton? And I think that’s what Bernie Sanders supporters have to decide. What will help us move forward, create momentum, continue to make gains, transform the Democratic Party further, bring it back to the people? And how do we make small donors the only way that politics should function, so there’s a level playing field in America for ordinary people who want to be legislators and mayors and the leaders of political and public institutions across the land? So it was an important speech. It came, of course, on the heels of Michelle Obama’s speech, which was also a fantastic speech that was rooted in history, in reality, in idealism, in what a great and strong nation we can become, if we are responsive to the needs of ordinary people and if we continue on the trajectory that has made us a country that can be more just to everyone in our society.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Jesús "Chuy" García, Cook County commissioner, who ran for mayor of Chicago against Rahm Emanuel, and he’s a Bernie Sanders supporter who is now backing Hillary Clinton.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Juan, just as you came off the floor, I walked onto the floor, and it is a sea of thousands and thousands of people. Whoever was in front of me, I just held out that mic.

REP. CAROL AMMONS: My name is Carol Ammons. I’m a state rep from the great state of Illinois in the 103rd District, central Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. And I feel inspired by what I just witnessed here at this Democratic National Convention. I am honored to be here. This is my first time, but it is truly an honor.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re the first African American to be elected in central Illinois?

REP. CAROL AMMONS: Yes, I’m the first African American to be elected to state rep from central Illinois, the 103rd District.

AMY GOODMAN: And who did you support?

REP. CAROL AMMONS: I was here for Bernie Sanders. I was a Bernie Sanders delegate. I spoke at Chicago State and introduced him. We welcomed him in Urbana-Champaign to 20,000 students. We were excited about Bernie Sanders.

AMY GOODMAN: Why Bernie Sanders? You’re from Hillary Clinton’s home state.

REP. CAROL AMMONS: You know, the political revolution is really important. The issues that Bernie really spoke for and spoke to and will organize about is why I supported Bernie Sanders from the very beginning. This is really not necessarily about the individual, but it is truly about the ideas. And Bernie Sanders spoke to the ideas and the ideals of so many Americans. And that’s why it was easy for me to support Bernie Sanders for this Democratic convention.

AMY GOODMAN: Why not Hillary Clinton? And how do you feel that today she was formally nominated?

REP. CAROL AMMONS: You know, it wasn’t really about why not Hillary or why Bernie. It was truly about what the ideals that were being expressed by those two people and the issues that are important to me and the people that I represent. The minimum wage is a big issue in our community and in our state. The Trans-Pacific Partnership—I’m an environmentalist. We’re concerned about water. We’re concerned about our resources and our land. Those were the issues that were really important to us in our communities. We’re concerned about criminal justice. So is he. I think Hillary is going to take the next step. I truly believe, with Bernie’s support and support with people like myself and others in the states, that Hillary will take the next steps to get us to where we should be.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts as you watch these mothers who are mourning the deaths of their daughters and sons, who, a number of them, died as a result of police violence, like Sandra Bland’s mother, who is from Illinois?

REP. CAROL AMMONS: That’s a tough one for me. I’m the mother of a 14-year-old, a 21-year-old African-American son and a 26-year-old daughter. And that moves me to the point of fighting for criminal justice reform, improving community-police relationships and bringing accountability to police departments across this country. It is important that we do that for the safety of all communities. And so, I look forward to working on that issue, because it is one that drives me. And I’m a mother, and I expect my children to be safe when they leave my home. And I’ve taught them to be well and treat others well, and I expect that they be treated well, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds, if not thousands, of people here at the Democratic convention chanted "Black lives matter."

REP. CAROL AMMONS: Yes, black lives do matter. We want to make sure that we don’t repeat the days of 1950s Emmett Till. We want to make sure that these young people have a future, and it should not be taken by police violence. And there must be accountability. If that is the case, we have to hold everyone accountable for their actions. And that’s what today’s chant was about: Black lives do matter.

AMY GOODMAN: Emmett Till would have been 75 years old this week.

REP. CAROL AMMONS: That’s right. We recognized his birthday a day ago while we were here at the Democratic National Convention. And it was important for me, because I’m a student of the civil rights movement. And I believe he gave his life for us to look back and make sure that we don’t repeat the past. And what we are going to do in November is to ensure that we don’t elect a Republican president that does not mind taking lives and excluding people and hating LGBT communities. We want to make sure he never takes one step on the grounds of the White House.

AARON AMMONS: My name is Aaron Ammons, and I’m a delegate for Bernie from the state of Illinois.

AMY GOODMAN: And what’s the most important issue to you here now?

AARON AMMONS: Well, I would say the $15 minimum wage. I’m also a chapter president for SEIU, Chapter 119 under Local 73, and so we’ve been fighting for $15 for a long time. And so, raising the minimum wage and having a living wage is something that I know is extremely important for millions of Americans, and especially for those who are trying to recover from tough times.


AARON AMMONS: Well, you know, I went through a tough time in my own life, and I ended up with a felony conviction from a drug conviction. And I overcame that and started working at the University of Illinois, changed my life around. And eventually, after a—you know, seeking a pardon, Governor Quinn, on his way out as governor of Illinois, issued me that pardon. And it has allowed me to now serve as an elected official. I’m a State Universities Retirement System trustee. Just so many doors have opened up for me. And I understand that bases, like the living wage that was at the University of Illinois, that gave me healthcare, that gave me union protection, was a foundation for me to be able to take care of myself and my family.

AMY GOODMAN: And how does that differ from people who have served time in prison, others?

AARON AMMONS: Well, you know, there are a lot of different barriers for people who have served time or who have a felony conviction. You know, there are certain things you just cannot do. You can’t work as a mail carrier. You can’t work in the school systems. You can’t serve in municipal government. You know, so there are a lot of blockages in that regard. We’re fortunate that there are some places, like the University of Illinois, who will hire people with felony convictions. But there are lots of places who have policies that will keep you out of that opportunity to have a living wage and to have a decent living.

AMY GOODMAN: What about voting?

AARON AMMONS: Well, in Illinois, we’re fortunate that you can vote in Illinois. But there are plenty other states around the country that will lock you out permanently from voting. But there are a lot of misnomers out there, a lot of miseducation out there, about whether or not you can vote, whether or not you can serve on juries. But in the state of Illinois, you can vote. As long as your feet are on the street, you can vote.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you’re on parole or probation?

AARON AMMONS: If you’re on parole or probation, you can still vote. In fact, if you are in the county jail and you have not been convicted, you can also vote absentee from the county jail in the state of Illinois.

AMY GOODMAN: In Bernie Sanders’ state of Vermont, you can vote from prison.

AARON AMMONS: Is that—so, I learned a lot over there. And Vermont is one of those places where you can actually vote from prison. I don’t think you should lose your right to vote because you’ve made a mistake and you’re paying your debt to society. Your right to vote should never be taken away from you.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much.

AARON AMMONS: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, so why are you supporting—why did you support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, and will you be supporting Hillary Clinton now?

AARON AMMONS: You know, when I really started to learn about Bernie and saw his consistency over decades of a real statesman, not just a politician, who said what he meant and meant what he said, and he stood for the issues that other people did not want to stand for, who were afraid to stand on those issues, and to take on big banks and call people out for what they were really doing, I really felt like that was the type of person I had to stand with. And that’s the type of organizing that I’ve been involved with all of my life. At this particular point, I feel like there’s no way that I could sit and watch a Donald Trump presidency, so I am compelled, certainly, to join the ranks and to follow the lead—the dignified lead, I would say—of Bernie Sanders, as he stood tonight and said, "I’m asking everybody to put their vote behind Hillary Clinton," and I’m going to follow that lead.

JIM KEADY: My name is Jim Keady. I am a delegate from the great state of New Jersey. I proudly voted for Bernie Sanders today. It’s a bittersweet time right now that Bernie did not win the nomination. And the thing that I’m struggling with right now—and I’ve had a lot of people talking to me about this, my activist friends—I’ve been a grassroots social justice activist for the last 20 years of my life. I’ve fought primarily on labor rights issues in Indonesia and Vietnam, fighting for Nike factory workers to get better wages and working conditions. And unfortunately, Hillary has been on the wrong side of that issue for a very long time.

And I think what activists are saying, people who are being asked by the Hillary supporters in the party to join the team now and to support her and have a united front to make sure that that narcissistic sociopath Donald Trump does not get into the White House—I think what we need to hear from Hillary is for her to be authentic with us, to admit that she’s not a real progressive, that she’s a moderate. And that’s OK. I’m fine with her being a moderate. And what she needs to say, I believe, as a moderate, is that, look, the party needs the activists, they need the people at the grassroots, they need the people that are willing to take the risks that activists take to disrupt meetings, to do civil disobedience, to call on the conscience of the party and the leaders of the party, of which she now is, as the nominee, and for her to say to us, "I value the work that you do, because sometimes I forget about the things that are important for the people at the grassroots. I’m caught up with the lobbyists and the bankers and all those special interests down in D.C., because to run an election"—and I know this, I’ve run for office, I’ve held office—"you’ve got to raise a lot of money." And that’s a challenge she’s faced with. And she needs to own that and say to us, "Please keep fighting and reminding me about the issues that I sometimes forget about. The party needs you. Our country needs you."

And I think if she did that and were honest with herself and with us, that it would be a much easier transition for people in the grassroots activist community, who are very disappointed right now and do want to—wanted to see Bernie win this race, that we could get behind her, again, because the ultimate goal for us now is to ensure that Donald Trump gets nowhere near the White House. And I would like to be enthusiastic about that, in supporting her, and not just begrudgingly do it because it’s a necessary evil.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s New Jersey Bernie Sanders delegate Jim Keady, who has for decades worked on labor issues in this country, and particularly in places like Indonesia and Vietnam, organizing workers in plants that are run by, among other places, Nike. Well, voices of delegates from around the country. I also spoke to Democratic Congressman Luis Guitérrez of Illinois on the floor, walking out of the convention floor just after Hillary Clinton secured the party’s presidential nomination.

REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Hi. My name is Luis Gutiérrez. I’m a member of Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: how are you feeling right now?

REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Very relieved.


REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Because we’re all together, and now we can go after Donald Trump. I feel really, really good.

AMY GOODMAN: What just happened?

REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Democratic Party came together. Bernie Sanders asked us all to reflect the vote, and had the last word. And it was a great word. I was excited. Thank God I didn’t need a handkerchief; I almost cried. It was wonderful, wonderful.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Congressmember Luis Guitérrez of Illinois speaking last night, and just after break, he’ll join us live, along with actor and activist Danny Glover. We’re all in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention. We are "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." Back in a minute.

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