Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made it official today in Portsmouth: He endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Sanders joined Clinton on stage and told a huge crowd filled with still- passionate backers of his own presidential run that he will do all he can to make sure Clinton makes it to the White House.
The banners at Portsmouth High school may have read "Stronger Together," but there were plenty of indications that not every attendee felt that way. Maggie King traveled to the rally wearing a Sanders t-shirt and carrying a homemade sign that read "Bernie or Bust." As she walked thought the parking lot, she said she didn’t care that Sanders himself was asking her to vote for Clinton.
“I’m still not voting for her.”
“Her track record: decades of deception corruption; the deaths that have come at her hands, all the boys and girls who have died in the wars and interventions. And her pro-fracking, I mean it just goes on and on. Let’s not get rid of money in politics and let’s let the revolving door of government officials go into lobbying groups. It just is endless.”
Gregg Tuveson of Dover had a more laconic, but equally emphatic way of answering the same question: Can you see yourself voting for Clinton now that Sanders has made his endorsement?
“F--k no, no, absolutely not.”
But not everyone in Portsmouth was upset that Sanders had acknowledged, as he did from the stage, that Hillary Clinton has the delegates she needs to win the nomination. Clare Bolster is a retired second grade teacher from Alton, who says she’s learned to take the long view when it comes to hardcore Sanders supporters.
“I think they don’t have a clue unfortunately. They’ll get one in the end.”
"Does 'in the end' come before November?"
“It may not for some of them, including some of my own children. But they have to realize that life goes on and they have to change some of their opinions because reality is speaking.”
Sanders supporter Melanie Hamilton of Northwood says she’s remains a skeptic of Hillary Clinton but says her commitment to Sanders’s goals means she’ll force herself to stomach Clinton, and urge others to do the same.
“People need to stay involved after this. They can’t just go back home. They’ve got to keep pushing for things that are important to all of us.”
"Do you think the specter of President Trump will…"
“That’s why I’m going to hold my nose and vote for her. I would much rather have Bernie but knowing the alternative I don’t have a choice.”
A few people outside the rally held signs for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. Last week Stein had invited Sanders to the Green party, even floating the idea of Sanders leading the ticket. Burt Cohen, a former state senator who was one of Sanders’s earliest local backers says he understands the impulse to reject Clinton but says the stakes are simply too high to do so.
“I don’t think Hillary is a terrific candidate. People don’t trust her and she’s given people a lot of reason for that. But in order to continue what we have fought for we have to do this. And I think people will come around and recognize a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Trump.”
The state’s Democratic party chairman, Ray Buckley, stood nearby. He held a plastic-wrapped photograph of himself with Hillary Clinton, ready for her to inscribe. Buckley said New Hampshire Democrats have seen divisive primaries before – Carter Kennedy in 1980, Obama Clinton eight years ago – and says experience and data tell him the party will unite.
“The polling is showing the Bernie people are rallying around Hillary quicker than the Hillary people rallied around Obama in 2008 and I think that bodes well for us.”
The first major test of the party’s unity will come in two weeks at the democratic convention in Philadelphia.