With Mark Zdechlik
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders urged Minnesota Democrats Thursday to work to elect Hillary Clinton, his former rival for the party’s presidential nomination.
Sanders spoke to a packed gathering of Democratic National Convention delegates from Minnesota, Michigan, Oregon and Tennessee at a hotel just outside Philadelphia. He thanked them for their support and “great victories” in their states.
“Our agenda is the future of America,” Sanders said.
Sanders pledged that his self-described revolution would continue, with organized efforts to elect like-minded progressive candidates across the country. But he urged his supporters to embrace a more immediate mission in the coming weeks.
“It is absolutely imperative that we work as hard as we can to make sure Donald Trump is defeated and Hillary Clinton is elected,” he said.
Sanders described Trump as a “demagogue,” and the “most dangerous candidate to run for president” in modern times.
“What a demagogue is about is running a campaign for president based on bigotry, based on trying to get one group of people to hate another group of people, and we will never allow that to happen in this country,” he said.
A majority of Minnesota delegates are Sanders supporters, reflecting the state’s precinct caucus results.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale also addressed the delegates. Mondale reminded them they were in the same city where, in 1948, Hubert Humphrey successfully pushed for the adoption of a civil rights plank at the Democratic convention.
Mondale said history was made again this week in Philadelphia.
“Finally, finally, well over 200 years in the history of our country the Democratic Party has nominated a great woman,” he said, “and she’s going to be the next President of the United States.”
Some delegates are accepting Sanders’ call for party unity and say they are willing to vote for Clinton. Erika Onsrud, a Sanders delegate from Minneapolis, is among those who are not ready to make such a commitment.
“Come November, I will vote my conscience, but not today,” Onsrud said.
Onsrud remains bitter over what she believes was an unfair primary process that had most all top Democratic leaders lined up in support of Clinton. Recent leaked DNC emails bolster the claims of bias.
“We know without a doubt that the hand was on the scale,” she said.
Will Moore, 24, of north Minneapolis said Sander’s plea made a big impression on him.
“He had to push me because I wasn’t going to vote for her. That was an amazing shift for me. I’m very sure that all of us are going to vote for Hillary because we don’t want Trump as a president,” he said.
It’s not just voting for Clinton that party leaders are looking for from activists. They hope they’ll be enthusiastic supporters who will work hard to convince others to vote for Clinton.
Listening to Sanders tout the Democratic platform’s left-leaning positions on higher education funding and health care left Jake Mazurek, 27, of Mound more excited about winning in November.
“Prior to him coming today I was still going to vote for Hillary Clinton because the alternative is unspeakable, but I wasn’t excited about it. I was going to do it as a duty,” he said. “Now I have a little bit of passion knowing that they are working together to push the party further to the left.”
But Sanders didn’t convince all of the delegates.
Rod Halvorson, a Sanders delegate from St. Paul, said the appearance of his preferred candidate was “very therapeutic.” He’s already working to form a state organization to continue Sanders’ agenda.
But Halvorson says he won’t decide how he will vote until he hears Clinton’s acceptance speech and sees how she campaigns in the coming weeks.
“How she basically campaigns towards us, while she’s also campaign to the rest of the country, is an important element in a lot of people making up their mind, including me,” he said.