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Outraged By DNC Leaks, More And More Sanders Supporters Plan To Vote Third Party

“I’m a life-long Democrat and life-long disappointed,” said 47-year-old Bill Frantal of Indiana.

Frantal was among hundreds of Bernie Sanders supporters who gathered outside Philadelphia’s City Hall in the sweltering heat on Sunday afternoon to protest the Democratic National Committee ahead of the convention.

Outrage at the Democratic party establishment was magnified by the batch of internal DNC emails published by WikiLeaks over the weekend proving that the DNC conspired with the Clinton campaign and the media to undercut Sanders during the primary.

Anger was also directed at the corporate media, as demonstrated by the crowd’s reaction to the presence of a CNN news crew at the rally. For ten minutes, Sanders supporters surrounded CNN, chanting, “shame, shame” and “CNN has got to go!” out of frustration over¬†biased anti-Sanders coverage from the establishment press.

“When I was brought up, Republicans were for corporate interests and Democrats were for public interests,” Frantal told Shadowproof. “Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is now the left-wing of the Republican Party. They’re all for corporate interests.”

While Frantal remains undecided about voting for Clinton in November, he was one of the few people I could find who would even consider casting a ballot for her, and it was purely out of fear of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Far more people said they plan to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Protester at the March For Bernie. Photo by Rania Khalek.

Protester at the March For Bernie. Photo by Rania Khalek.

Pasu Tivoret likened the race between Trump and Clinton to “choosing to vote for Lex Luthor or the Joker.” Formerly a Green Party member from California, Tivoret became a Democrat to support Sanders but plans to re-register with the Green Party. “I dropped the Dems just like they dropped Bernie,” he reasoned.

Scott Brown, a 31-year-old Sanders delegate from Atlanta, Georgia, is “withholding judgment” about voting for Clinton until after the convention. “I just have to think about the right strategy for a progressive future,” he told Shadowproof. While he recognizes the importance of stopping Trump in the short term, Brown argued that “in the long term, if we keep electing Democrats with a neoliberal agenda, we’re going to keep enabling them.”

As for Sanders’ call for party unity in the aftermath of the DNC leaks scandal, Brown said, “There’s a contrast between unity and having the strongest party you can, not just to win this election but to win the long-term ideological battle in this country. If we let our party get away with short-changing its constituents, then people will lose faith in our party.”

Brown’s friend, Astrid Rodas, 37, flat out refused to vote for Clinton because “she doesn’t represent my values, she sides with Wall Street.”

A sign from the March For Bernie at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Rania Khalek.

A sign from the March For Bernie at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Rania Khalek.

“The Democratic Party lost me,” said Rodas, who plans to cast a ballot for Jill Stein. She also expressed disappointment in Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton ahead of the convention. “It hurt everyone a lot,” she observed, though she still appreciates Sanders’s push for a progressive agenda.

Brown agreed that Sanders’ premature endorsement was painful. “That bothered me a lot at first too. I thought it hurt our momentum,” he said. But he now believes “it gave Democrats a chance to see Clinton’s poll numbers without Bernie in the race” and they’re still terrible.

Indeed, with Sanders out of the race, Clinton is polling within the margin of error against Donald Trump. In key battleground states, he’s polling ahead of her.

Lauren Teffers, 18, and Madi Aha, 20, from Baltimore, Maryland, are both registered Democrats who plan to vote for Stein. “[Clinton’s] not for the people. She’s taking money from Banks and big oil companies” and will be returning the favor once elected, said Aha, who also expressed concern about Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy.

Maureen Maske, 37, is also Democrat who plans to vote for Stein. Clinton, she says, is “too aggressive” on foreign policy. “I think it’s an insult to make Americans choose between this lesser-of-two-evils crap,” argued Maske.

It’s appears that the treatment of Sanders throughout the primary has exposed the corruption within the Democratic Party like never before. Based on the reaction of some of his most enthusiastic supporters, it’s clear that the outrage he unleashed can’t be tamed by his endorsement of Clinton, especially among his younger supporters.

Protester at the March For Bernie. Photo by Rania Khalek

Protester at the March For Bernie. Photo by Rania Khalek

According to one poll, nearly half of millennials who supported Sanders plan to vote for a third party despite his endorsement.

Seattle councilwoman Kshama Sawant believes that progressive disillusionment with the Democratic Party presents a unique and pressing opportunity to finally build an independent and viable third party alternative.

Asked how she responds to those who argue that a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump, Sawant replied putting energy into supporting another corporate Democrat is the more dangerous option.

“I am as horrified as any other progressive who finds Trump’s agenda stomach-turning. But what I’m worried about is far bigger than Trump himself. Trump’s rise signifies decades of betrayal by both the Democratic and Republican parties, that is why he’s risen up,” Sawant argued.

“In 2010, the Tea Party made gains not because the country was turning right-wing, but because people were angry at the corporate bailouts of Obama,” she continued. “And the left and the labor movement stood by at that time, passively cheerleading Obama. Meanwhile, there was burning anger among ordinary people.”

“What’s happening now is Trump is tapping into it. That’s dangerous, because if Trump can tap into it, far more dangerous right-wing elements can tap into it,” Sawant explained. “We could even see the formation of a far-right party. The only way to stop that from happening is to build the left immediately and have a sense of urgency about this.”

"Black Men For Bernie" bus at the March For Bernie. Photo By Rania Khalek.

“Black Men For Bernie” bus at the March For Bernie. Photo By Rania Khalek.

“Folding our movements behind Hillary and her Wall Street agenda will feed into the right because people are angry and they need an alternative. The right-wing right now has a monopoly on that. We need the left to take that monopoly.”

While Sawant’s message resonated in the street, the idea of supporting a third party remains a major point of contention among Sanders supporters.

State Representative Carol Ammons, a Sanders delegate and the first black woman to be elected in Illinois 103rd district, understands that people are frustrated, “but at the end of the day we must consider the outcome of a Trump presidency,” she told Shadowproof.

“I would hope that those of us who were Sanders supporters would not get lost in discussion of a third party candidate only to give it over to Trump. Numerically that is what it will do,” Ammons insisted, adding that “we have a candidate in the White House that we can work with.”

Judging by the attitudes witnessed among Sanders supporters outside City Hall, Ammons argument has little chance of persuading a significant slice of Sanders supporters who are fed up.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington on July 20, 2016. [StateDept/ Public Domain]
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Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek is an associate editor at the Electronic Intifada and co-host of the weekly podcast Unauthorized Disclosure. Her work has appeared at Al Jazeera, The Nation, Salon, Truthout, FAIR, Vice, AlterNet, and more.