Bernie Sanders set to rally Michigan Dem delegation

Jonathan Oosting, and Maureen Feighan

King of Prussia, Penn. — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will speak to Michigan delegates on Thursday near the Democratic National Convention, where he is working to rally his supporters behind presidential nominee Hillary Clinton but continue the “political revolution” he champions.

The Michigan caucus is on Sanders’ schedule for Thursday morning, campaign spokesman Michael Briggs confirmed in a text message to The Detroit News. He also will address Minnesota and Tennessee delegates staying at the same hotel in suburban Philadelphia.

The planned speech comes amid tension at the convention, where more than 100 Sanders delegates staged a Tuesday night sit-in at a media tent. On Wednesday morning, two Michigan delegates interrupted a breakfast with allegations of unfair treatment and a “rigged” primary process.

“We’ve got folks who are frustrated not only with politics in Washington, but with the status quo,” Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon said.

“I think we’re doing a good job engaging the vast majority of Sanders supporters. If you move past the small handful of people who are extremely vocal, you’re going to find people who have come here this week and really understand what’s at stake in this election.”

Sanders has endorsed Clinton and moved Tuesday to make her nomination unanimous by acclimation, a symbolic gesture intended to show support for the former secretary of state.

But some Sanders delegates continue to voice displeasure.

“Address the WikiLeaks and cheating by the DNC,” Bruce Fealk of Rochester Hills shouted Wednesday morning after former Gov. Jim Blanchard spoke to Michigan delegates, referencing leaked emails that appeared to show some national party officials working to undermine the Sanders campaign.

“I don’t mind losing, but I feel like we didn’t lose fair and square,” he told reporters after a continued conversation with Blanchard outside the breakfast hall.

Mary MacLeod of Whitehall also jumped up and spoke to Michigan delegates during a lull in the Wednesday breakfast, claiming the party worked to minimize Sanders delegates and limit their access to convention seats.

“It’s a sort of structural exclusion,” said MacLeod, one of several Sanders delegates who wore tape over their mouths during Monday’s session. She noted delegates are not allowed to bring signs into the convention center but are instead provided signs inside the Wells Fargo Arena.

“We took markers and changed the signs and they called that defacing, and when we put tape over our mouths they said that’s disruptive,” she said.

Sanders narrowly defeated Clinton in Michigan’s March 8 primary, but she won more state delegates because of support from superdelegates — a group of mostly elected officials who have convention voting rights under longstanding party rules that may change in future elections.

A number of Sanders delegates from Michigan are now supporting Clinton, but in a quieter fashion.

James Winne, a Sanders delegate from Washington Township, said he has “no problems with Hillary whatsoever” and fully intends to vote for her this fall.

As for the holdouts, “I think for some of them it’s their first rodeo,” Winne said. “They don’t understand that in politics you don’t get everything you want, at least not the first time.”

Blanchard, in his breakfast speech, pointed out notable politicians who lost elections and went on to do great things. He praised Sanders and his supporters for raising issues “that were long overdue” and said the “impact of Bernie is going to go on for generations.”

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Sanders supporter now backing Clinton, also addressed Michigan delegates on Wednesday and urged delegates to rally behind the former secretary of state to help defeat Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“It’s hard to be 'Bernie or bust' if Bernie is not 'Bernie or bust,'” Ellison said.

Sanders supporters staged a Tuesday night sit-in at a media tent just outside the Wells Fargo Arena. The area was closed off for more than an hour as police blocked the exterior. Outside the tent, more Sanders supporters continued to protest, sometimes even among themselves. Some taped their mouths in protest.

“We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to have it,” said Derel Stroud, a Sanders delegate from New Jersey. “We’ve decided to leave this rigged convention. I feel like this was just a show for the media.”

Some Sanders supporters yelled at the protesters, saying their actions weren’t what the Vermont senator stood for.

“I’m not going to tear (the party) apart because we didn’t get our way,” Sanders delegate Chris Pumpelly said.

Heideh Briggs, a Sanders delegate from Ann Arbor, is ready to get behind Clinton after Sanders’ speech Monday. She argues the revolution he started has just begun but they’re already had incredible success.

“We have the most progressive platform” the party has ever had, Briggs said. “And that’s definitely a win. This was about a revolution and a revolution takes time.”