It would be many hours until the polls closed, and many more before Bernie Sanders took the stage, but Christina Neferis was already forming a line.
The twenty-something documentarian from Los Feliz, given the day off from work to vote, said she had arrived at Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar at 2 p.m., where she became the first Sanders supporter waiting to enter the Democratic presidential challenger’s election night rally.
“We’re here to hear that Bernie has won California,” Neferis said, before correcting herself. “We’re here to announce that Bernie has won California.”
Those who thought the Associated Press’ early call Monday night that Hillary Clinton had clinched the Democratic nomination would dampen the enthusiasm of California voters eager to have a say after a long and contentious primary season clearly overlooked the devoted Sanders acolytes.
Still confident on Tuesday evening that he could take the nomination fight to the Democratic National Convention and win, they had as much contempt for the media that reported Clinton’s “coronation” as for the superdelegates that ultimately tipped the contest in her favor.
“What happened last night was an insult to all Americans,” Neferis, said, calling the announcement “very manipulative” and “just calculated.”
Fans standing in line speculated that the “corporate media” was attempting to suppress voter turnout and influence the election in Clinton’s favor.
“It’s a survival thing,” said Randy Woodard, a 60-year-old retired businessman from West Los Angeles, who said news organizations understood that Sanders was going after their financial backers.
Behind him, Diana Rivera agreed that the Clinton news was “demoralizing.” But, she added, “We’re all trying to fight together.”
None expressed a willingness to vote for Clinton, suggesting the Green Party’s Jill Stein as one alternative. And all remained committed to the idea that a Sanders victory in California would send a message, giving him momentum into the July convention and rallying supporters to pressure superdelegates into switching their allegiance.
Rivera, 37, a clinical psychologist-in-training from Los Angeles, said the AP’s decision to include them “as part of the equation is just grossly inaccurate.”
“They can flip, should flip and will flip,” she said.
Others held on to the possibility that an FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server while working as Secretary of State could end her candidacy, opening the door for Sanders as the Democrats’ backup.
Alexis Clark, a 33-year-old art history lecturer at the University of Southern California, said Sanders was the first candidate to inspire her enough to participate in a presidential primary.
“I hope that the truth of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal is brought to light,” she said. “If justice was served, she would be indicted.”