For some Bernie Sanders supporters, the prospect of voting for anyone for president other than the Vermont senator is not a viable option.
It’s something that Heather Spitzberg, one of the founders of New York Capital Region for Bernie, doesn’t even want to think about as the New York primary approaches on April 19.
“I’m focused on what’s in front of us right now, and I will put all my energy into that decision if and when I have to,” said Spitzberg, who hosted a “Bernie party” at her Slingerlands home back in July 2015. “I have two jobs, a family, all this volunteer work. I don’t have the energy to get into hypotheticals right now.”
Following his three wins last Saturday in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington, Sanders has 1,004 delegates to 1,712 for Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state. Clinton needs 2,383 to earn the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia July 25-28, and if she finishes first in Wisconsin on Tuesday and in New York April 19, Sanders will have little hope of taking up residence in the White House in November. However, the Marquette Law School poll released Thursday showed Sanders with a 49-45 percent advantage in the Badger state. As for New York, the Quinnipiac Poll also released Thursday has Clinton up, 54-42 percent, the 12-point cushion down significantly from the 20-point margin she enjoyed in the Siena College Poll released March 7.
To some avid Bernie supporters, finishing second best to Clinton and then helping her get elected in the fall, regardless of who is on the Republican line, isn’t an option.
“It’s a pretty contentious issue,” says Josephine Moore, a member of New York Capital Region for Bernie who also hosted a party for Sanders at her Schenectady home last July. “My position is that voting is a personal choice and everyone needs to make that decision for myself. For me, what’s at stake is whether or not we’re going to accept four more years of selling out to corporations. I will not support Hillary. I will vote for Jill Stein. I think we need to send a strong message that we will no longer sell out to corporations and their candidates.”
Stein is the presidential hopeful of the Green Party, of which Moore was a member before she changed political affiliations to work for Sanders and the Democrats. Spitzberg, meanwhile, was a registered independent voter before she too became a Democrat strictly to support Sanders.
“Being from New York I always heard stories about him because he was the senator from Vermont,” said Spitzberg. “I was always impressed with his record and his consistency on the environment and on matters concerning the military and the funding of campaigns. This is my first real foray into politics, and I’m passionate about it, just like most of the other Bernie supporters I know.”
Ballston Spa’s Joe Seeman is part of Saratogians for Bernie, and has been working hard for Sanders’ campaign since last summer. But unlike Spitzberg and Moore, he won’t be able to vote April 19 in the primary. He’s still officially a member of the Working Families Party.
“I can’t vote in the primary, but I can help everybody else get out and vote,” he said. “I’m on the state committee for the Working Families Party, and it would have messed things up if I had changed my affiliation. But some of my best friends are Democrat, and the Working Families Party has endorsed Bernie, so I’ve been in Bernie’s camp since he announced last July.”
While he’s every bit as passionate for Sanders as Spitzberg and Moore, Seeman has a different take on voting for Hillary.
“If Bernie loses, the political revolution continues,” he said. “I don’t speak for all Bernie supporters, but for me it’s not about being anti-Hillary. I don’t know the exact quote, but like Bernie said, on her worst day Hillary is infinitely better than Trump or Cruz or any of the Republican candidates. I agree with him. I’m for Bernie, not against Hillary. I also assume the Working Families Party will endorse the Democratic nominee, and I will very likely vote for that person.”
While many of Sanders’ fervent supporters may desert the Democratic Party at the general election, the Clinton/Sanders divide is not nearly as pronounced as the “Anyone But Trump” movement that threatens harmony within the Republican Party, according to Union College political science professor Bradley Hayes.
“I don’t see them as being parallel,” said Hayes. “I think where the Republicans are right now is a bit unique. For the Dems, I think it’s pretty standard. Whenever’s there’s a competitive primary, feelings get amplified. The primaries are often a divisive time for political parties, and people need time to get over the loss of their candidate.”
November and the general election are a long ways off, said Hayes.
“There’s plenty of opportunity for healing,” he said. “It’s early, and maybe most of Bernie’s supporters will come around and vote for Clinton if she’s the candidate. There is often a coalescing around a candidate at the nominating convention, and many things are unanswered right now. Will he endorse her? Will he actually go out and stump for her? Who will she pick for her vice-presidential candidate? Those are all powerful things that can give people a reason to come back to the party by November.”
Clinton supporters, should the roles be reversed, don’t seem to have as big an issue when it comes to changing allegiances.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen, but we have a process and when the Democrats choose their national candidate at the convention I’m sure I will be able to support that person,” said Schenectady County Democratic Committee chair Joe Landry, the Niskayuna town supervisor. “If Bernie wins I will do what I usually do. I will support the Democrat.”
Marsha Mortimore of Rotterdam is also an avid Clinton fan, and will do what she can to keep a Republican out of the oval office.
“I supported Barack Obama, and now I support Hillary,” she said. “She has a lot of experience, so she’s the one I want having my back. She’s my girl. I feel secure with her. I like Bernie, I could vote for him, but I feel a lot of what he’s proposing is not affordable. I would love to have free college, I want water tested all over the place, but let’s be realistic.”
Mortimore, who is black, said the majority of blacks, at least the ones she’s talked to in the Capital Region, will overwhelmingly vote Democratic in November, either for Clinton or Sanders.
“I just don’t feel as though Republicans are speaking our language,” she said. “I think most people of color are going to vote Democratic. That’s been my experience.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]