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Progressive Democrats of America’s Donna Smith says the Sanders delegates are prepared to continue to fight at the DNC
SHARMINI PERIES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. A survey conducted by the Bernie Delegates Network, an initiative launched by rootsaction.org in partnership with Progressive Democrats of America, found that Sanders delegates had major concerns about Clinton’s choice for vice president, at least a candidate she’s considering. How will this affect the coming Democratic national convention? Joining me now to discuss this is Donna Smith, the executive director of the Progressive Democrats for America, and she’s also a board member for Healthcare-NOW!, supporting single-payer medicare for all. Thank you so much for joining me, Donna. DONNA SMITH: Thank you very much for having me. PERIES: So Donna, let’s get into this survey. What did it reveal, and what will it mean moving forward to the convention? SMITH: Well, I think that the main thing it revealed to us, in really quite striking numbers, was how deep the dissatisfaction is among most Bernie delegates for the potential choices that Hillary Clinton may make in terms of a running mate. We put the survey out there and asked the delegates to rate them, whether or not they’re likely to be in favor of that person or if they would disagree and oppose that person? And pretty across the board, at least on Clinton’s main, at least the folks we’ve heard that are the main choices for her, they were well, well over 75 percent opposed to those people. And the problem for the Clinton campaign with those ratings is that there are only two real ways between now and election for the Clinton camp to signal to Bernie delegates, and not just the delegates but the millions and millions of Bernie voters all across the country, that they get it and that those voters were heard and that the agenda that Bernie put forward is important, would be through the platform first, where there might have been some minor gains in terms of some areas, and even though that platform’s being sold as the most progressive platform in the history of the party, and there are some parts of that that you certainly could argue are more progressive than they’ve been, but they don’t come anywhere near where we really would like them to be, in terms of Bernie support. Then you take a look at the choice of running mate being potentially the most important area, because the platform being largely aspirational and symbolic, you get to the running mate and that person really has some potential to either add energy and progressivism to the ticket and to make that ticket reflect more of what this primary season reflected, which was, you had a certain number of people who supported Hillary Clinton, and it appears that she has taken the nomination, and then you have a large, large number of states, a large number of voters, who said that they supported and preferred the agenda that Bernie had. So, our delegates were telling us on no uncertain terms that they want a more progressive running mate to be on the ticket with Hillary Clinton in November than what she’s putting forward right now. PERIES: Now, earlier when you said, as far as the platform is concerned some 70 percent, 75 percent of more of the delegates–these are the Bernie delegates–didn’t favor it, but when it came to the actual candidates that she’s considering there was a line-by-line vote and what I saw was over 90 percent of the Bernie delegates did not support the candidates she’s considering. How grave a problem is this? SMITH: I think it’s a big problem, and I think a lot of the people who’ve been working on Bernie’s campaign and been working since the primary has been winding down think it’s a very big problem for Clinton, in that, if she puts forward–you know, look at the energy in the last few days around the Republican nominee’s choice of someone who is extremely conservative, who they hoped would, you know, anchor the conservative base of the Republican Party–I guess we’ll see what happens with that situation. But the reality is, they put forward somebody who doesn’t help Trump’s situation among women, doesn’t help the situation, certainly, where the LGBT community goes. And you know, if we watch on the Democratic side and the same signal is sent to Democratic voters that we really don’t care what happened during the primary, we’re unconcerned with the millions of people who said they wanted a far more progressive agenda during this election cycle and going into the next government cycle, I think the– You know, you put a less progressive person on the ticket and it becomes a much less exciting ticket. It becomes one in which they’re relying really on either Hillary and her previous experience of secretary of state, President Obama’s support for her or perhaps the fact that it, you know, it’s the historic candidacy of the first woman running for the presidency of the United States, at least on a major party ticket, not the first woman running but the first woman to get the nomination of one of the major parties. That’s a whole different kind of campaign to run than one in which your base says, oh, there’s somebody on that ticket who tempers the militarism from here, who really has health care as a human right at the top of their agenda, who really considers the Robin Hood tax, not just a weakened financial transaction tax, and someone who really takes the agenda to stop the TPP and to do the things that were fought at the platform committee level and really move them forward in a running mate situation. I think that would be a much different campaign than having to run one with a kind of a lackluster, less progressive that may make more Bernie voters more likely to either look for a third party vote in either Jill Stein of the Green Party or to even consider not voting in some of the down-ballot races where those votes will really be needed. PERIES: Now Donna, is there a candidate being put forth by the Bernie delegates? I mean, most of us don’t know how all of these intricacies work within the party, but is there a candidate of preference on the part of the Bernie delegates? SMITH: I don’t think I’ve heard one in particular that people really say is the one that they would really want to see. I mean, of course we hear Elizabeth Warren mentioned quite a bit as somebody they’d like to see on the ticket with Hillary. People often, at the very tail end of the primaries, would say, why don’t Bernie and Hillary run together, which I certainly don’t think is going to happen. And the reality is, I think of a few, and I’ve heard other people put forward a few. I think of people like Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Now, there’s been no mention of him and he certainly hasn’t put forward any inklings that he would want to do that, but what a fabulous young congressional member he is with a lot of energy and fire and passion for progressive issues. Raul Grijalva of Arizona is fabulous and just a remarkable legislator and progressive. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, just a terrific, young, progressive voice in the Democratic Party. So, there’s a lot of people who could be considered, at least be considered and put forward as possible nominees for vice president, that would be a whole different dynamic and whole different discussion and might add a different energy even to the convention than what we may see with whatever Hillary may choose. PERIES: Right. Now, there seems to be sort of large intervals between hearing from Bernie Sanders himself since he’s endorsed Hillary Clinton. There’s been little coming out of his camp. What are the thoughts inside now and leading up to the DNC? SMITH: Well, I have to think that’s purposeful. You know, I think that Bernie is a smart fellow and, you know, he’s been at this for many years, in terms of running for office and being a sitting United States senator. I think that he understands that at this moment, this is about Hillary Clinton at this moment. However, what I’ve heard from delegates and from other Bernie supporters is, Bernie told us all from the beginning that first of all there would be a 50 state strategy and he would take this all the way to the convention. So, I think there are some issues that are still there to be discussed and to be [thought] out on the floor if necessary, ending [of] the superdelegates being one of them. So, we have our own rules issues in the Democratic side of the house that need to be discussed. And perhaps open primaries, that’s another issue that people are concerned about. So, there’s a lot of things that still need to be under consideration. The other thing I’ve heard Bernie talk about is forming some organizations of his own where he will take a leadership role in trying to find candidates, identify good candidates who are in the progressive tradition, and a proud progressive tradition, help train and perhaps support those candidates to run for office, not necessarily at the national level, always, but to start seating some people, you know, in the local and state races where we can really start having a real pool for building power in the future so that we don’t have one lone person, in the person of Bernie Sanders, standing alone, talking about a truly progressive agenda, and have not a lot of support from his fellow congressional members when he’s trying to do things like single-payer health care in congress. PERIES: And one would think that Hillary Clinton would abandon the strategies that were used by Bill Clinton, for example. Go to the right as much as possible because it doesn’t matter, the left really has no choice but to vote for the Democratic candidate. She does not seem to actually care at this point, at least as far as her vice presidential nomination is concerned, because most of the candidates she had chosen that you surveyed were very much to the right. SMITH: Absolutely. Think about Tim Kaine or even Cory Booker or some of the other people on the list. You know, significantly to the right of what we would like them to be. And I think it would be a terrible miscalculation for the party to assume reading stories like, for instance, let’s say, what the Washington Post put up almost immediately, that most Bernie voters would be prepared to vote for Hillary Clinton almost immediately after Bernie’s run was over, and to assume that because the only choice in the major parties is either Donald Trump or Hillary that means Bernie voters would necessarily go with Hillary. I think that’s a bad assumption. You have a lot of first time voters in this loop who voted for Bernie Sanders, a lot of young voters who have a very different view of what this looks like, and a lot of young voters who, for the very first time, either went and registered and voted or registered to vote and worked very hard as volunteers in the Bernie campaign, and I don’t think those young people who were fired up around those issues that Bernie articulated so well are shifting quite as easily as some of the mainstream media stories would like to indicate. I think many of those voters are feeling a little bit betrayed. Sometimes you hear that kind of language, and I try and tamp that down a little because I don’t think what has happened with Bernie is a betrayal by Bernie. I think that if the Democratic Party does not recognize the fact that we had all these incredible young people step up on college campuses and elsewhere all over the country and get engaged and get involved, and some registered as Democrats only because Bernie was running. I think you can’t take those folks for granted and assume that they’re just going to come along with you. And this year has not been about politics as usual, so to take a look, those polls have been wrong during this primary season several times. And I think in this instance it would be a real mistake for the Clinton campaign or the DNC to look and say, nothing to worry about. We can do whatever we want to between now and November. In terms of those Bernie voters, they’re just going to be along for the ride. That’s not true, and I’m betting that the candidates in the down-ballot races certainly don’t want the DNC to take that vision and risk losing a number of voters who they are going to need to carry their races. PERIES: All right, Donna. I thank you so much for joining us today, and we’ll be keeping a close watch on what’s happening and developing leading up to the Democratic national convention, and I hope you join us during those discussions in the future. Thank you. SMITH: Okay, great. Thanks very much. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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