On Tuesday evening, just after the Democratic National Convention made Hillary Clinton their official nominee for President, Maria Hutchinson stood impassively next to the complimentary charging station in the hallway of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In front of her, delegates, celebrities, political figures, journalists, staff, guests and volunteers were rushing, racing, jockeying to get to one thing or another – food, restrooms, elevators, seats inside the arena, or perhaps the protests outside – across an expanse of asphalt, concrete and steel, past the security tent, in the cordoned-off “free speech” zone.
Hutchinson, a Bernie Sanders delegate from Hudson, Wisconsin had come a long way to stand in the hallway, waiting for her phone to charge.
I met Maria because I was charging my devices too, with the intent of gathering more material and story ideas. I asked her what she thought of the convention so far. The question elicited a rueful sigh. She said that she and her family had volunteered and donated money to the Sanders campaign – more money than she had, really. Sanders had won Wisconsin’s April 5th primary handily, beating Clinton by 13 percentage points. But now, Clinton had officially the nominee. I don’t think I’ll be staying, she said, adding that she had learned long ago that you shouldn’t stick around if you are being abused.
Did she feel that she and other Sanders supporters had been abused? Alluding to the controversy over Wikileaks’ disclosure of emails among staff members of the Democratic National Committee, Hutchinson said, “I think it’s been proven that the upper echelon of the Democratic Party was conspiring against the Sanders campaign. The leadership was forced to resign and then was immediately hired by the Democratic nominee.”
Hutchinson was talking, of course about Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl), who had been forced to resign her post as DNC chair as a result of the furor over the email revelations. In accepting her resignation, Hillary Clinton announced that she would become an honorary chair of her campaign. Some Clinton partisans argued that the appointment meant nothing. On the DailyKos site, Mark Sumner argued that the appointment was a fig leaf, a “courtesy,”
“Being an honorary chair does not mean that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is “in charge of” Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It doesn’t mean anything. That is, unless you think President Obama’s 2012 campaign was run by actress Eva Longoria; or former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee; or high school guidance counselor Loretta Harper—all of whom were among 24 people who served as honorary co-chairs of Obama’s 2012 campaign.”
But to Hutchinson and many Sanders supporters, Clinton’s “courtesy” looked more like a gesture of approval for what they have seen as a string of irregularities, abuses and needless complexities throughout the nominating process. Hutchinson said, “I think that if Wasserman Schultz is guilty [of conspiring against Sanders], so is Hillary.”
What about Sanders’ plea for party unity, or the assertion by his former staff member Symone Sanders that whatever the problems with the primary process, Hillary Clinton legitimately won the primary? We were speaking just after Sanders’ rollcall motion to nominate Clinton by acclamation and a walkout by hundreds of hundreds of Sanders partisans.
Hutchinson said Sanders was doing what he had to do, politically, and his gesture toward Clinton just showed that, “he’s a classy guy.” She still respected Senator Sanders, but she didn’t feel compelled to follow his lead, adding, “I’m worried about the fact that [Hillary] is not transparent.” She was bothered by Clinton’s history of misstatements, such as her debunked claim that she had been under sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia as First Lady. There was nothing Clinton could do to redeem herself in Hutchinson’s eyes. “She can’t undo what’s been done.”
Hutchinson allowed that she was worried about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, “but I’m not responsible for that.” She had volunteered, donated, and raised money to support the candidate who she thought was best for the country. That’s a point of contention in her family, she added. Her relatives believe that Democrats have to get behind the party’s nominee to stop Trump. Polls by Pew Research conducted this past spring indicate that most Sanders supporters will support Clinton in the fall, but it’s anyone’s guess what that means for the general election.
So what now? Hutchinson wasn’t sure. The Green Party’s platform seemed to reflect Sanders’ ideals – she planned to look into them. She added, “I do believe that Bernie’s call for people to become involved [in politics] at all levels will be heeded.”
After I closed my notebook and thanked her, Hutchinson said that she hadn’t spoken out before because she was concerned about losing her credentials. She said she had been told that by Wisconsin Democratic party officials that she should be prepared to support the party’s candidate. That’s consistent with the advice on a website for Wisconsin delegates, Adoptaberniedelegate.com. That site, admonished Sanders delegates that statements against the party’s nominee, or in support of a Sanders run outside of the Democratic party could be considered grounds for stripping credentials.
Hutchinson said she had stayed quiet so that she would be assured of being able to give her constituents a voice in the nominating process, but that was done now.
The clatter in the hall had become a dull roar. I had to get going. She stayed there at the charging station, waiting.