Politics & Government

Some Sanders voters will vote Green rather than for Clinton

As die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters shunned Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Thursday, some appeared to be shifting instead to Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate who was at 3 percent in the polls when the week began.

“I’m not voting for Donald Trump. I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton,” said Pam Keeley, 66, a Sanders delegate from Washington state who’s a retired transplant nurse.

Because Sanders and Stein share common ground on a lot of issues, “I’ll figure it out on the other side of today,” Keeley said.

To some of Sanders’ younger supporters, caught up in their first flush of political success as he rolled up primary victories and the presidential nomination began to become more than a theoretical goal, Stein is a safe harbor.

“A large part of it as young people, we’re first-time voters; we’re really still trying to get a grasp of how this election system works,” said Ryan Lopez, 20, president of Students for Bernie on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he is a junior majoring in chemistry. “So, obviously, if you look at Bernie, he’s had so much of young people’s energy, it’s only natural there’s so much disappointment.”

Lopez said he’d either vote for Stein in November or write in Sanders.

His intransigence reflected a strain through the Sanders wing. How widespread it is is hard to say. But Norman Solomon, a Sanders delegate from California who’s the national coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, said, “I’ve heard many young people say, ‘This is (expletive). I’m out of here.’ ”

Others in the Vermont senator’s camp were taking a more gimlet-eyed view of the landscape and beginning to fashion a strategy to optimize their influence on Clinton in key states in order to advance their larger cause.

It underscored the notion that beyond the pick-up-my-toys-and-go-home attitude that Sanders’ more entrenched followers assumed this week, a game of hard-nosed politics was at work.

Sanders drew more than 13 million votes during his primary duel with Clinton; she finished with nearly 17 million. His campaign thinks he missed out on others, including those in swing states that will be pivotal in this election, from people unable to vote for him due to varying rules about registration and timing.

Florida, Ohio and this year Pennsylvania are among those states that will likely be in play in the general election.

Republican moderates in those states might be turned off by Trump and could be lured by Clinton, but they are a shrinking bloc in the GOP. And many might just come to her on their own.

“What do you orient your campaign to?” said Jeff Cohen of the Bernie Delegates Network. “These very few remaining Republicans, or do you orient toward what you know are millions of people on your left that want to have a reason to vote?”

That’s the influence they hope to exert.

“It’s not a given that people are going to hold their nose and cast a vote for Hillary,” said Donna Smith, a Sanders supporter who’s the executive director of Progressive Democrats for America. “I think she has some work to do.”

Leaders in the Sanders delegate movement said that if his supporters in blue states such as New York and California wanted to vote for Stein, that was fine with them because those states were solidly Democratic anyway.

“A few percent (for Stein) in New York state won’t likely matter,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York. “But a few percent in New Hampshire might tip the state and matter in a close race nationally.”

Dale Rains, 39, a sandwich delivery man from Minneapolis who was among the demonstrators at the convention, said he’d vote for Stein because he had that luxury: Minnesota traditionally votes Democratic in national elections.

“I wouldn’t be able to say ‘yes’ so easily if I lived in a swing state, but I live in a deep blue state of Minnesota,” Rains said. “So I think it’s important that if you do live in a deep red or blue state to raise awareness of a third party.”

Stein, 66, was the Green Party candidate for president in 2012, when she finished with under half a million votes. Her best state was Maine –she is from neighboring Massachusetts – where she received 1.3 percent of the vote.

She’s been active in environmental health and peace issues. The physician-turned-political-activist has been in Philadelphia this week courting Sanders dissidents and joining their protests.

In an interview this week on “Democracy Now!” an independent news program, Stein said, “Donald Trump is a very dangerous person. He says extremely despicable, reprehensible things. But at the same time, Hillary Clinton has a track record for doing absolutely horrific things, for expanding wars, in the likes of Libya, for example. . . . Hillary Clinton has a very clear, lifelong – practically lifelong – track record for locking up African-Americans, for deporting immigrants, for serving the interests of Wall Street, being funded by Wall Street and the war profiteers. So let’s not pretend for a minute that Hillary Clinton’s track record offers us any hope.”

Clarissa Rodriguez, 17, of Texas City, Texas, the youngest member of the delegation, said, “Absolutely not” when asked whether she would vote for Stein.

“She can’t win,” Rodriguez said. “You are not going to move the entire party to a candidate whose platform is progressive, but is flawed. . . . I will vote for Hillary Clinton for president because that’s my option. Do I think it’s an actual progressive option? No, but there’s no way in hell Donald Trump is going to win my White House.”

Danielle Prieur and Jee-Eun Lee of Medill News Service contributed to this article.

David Goldstein: 202-383-6105, @GoldsteinDavidJ