Hard-core Connecticut supporters of Bernie Sanders are having a hard time digesting that the 74-year-old Democratic socialist campaign for president is over — and — that he endorsed Hillary Clinton.
That ending came Tuesday when Sanders endorsed his long-time rival for the Democratic nomination.
Clinton and Sanders formally declared an end to their political rivalry, joining forces at a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to take on a shared enemy: Republican Donald Trump.
Dan Durso, co-director of Bernie Sanders’ Connecticut Team, admitted Wednesday that Connecticut supporters are still reeling a bit.
“Although the end was kind of inevitable, people, especially the younger ones who haven’t been through a lot of campaigns before, are taking it pretty hard,” said Durso, of East Hartford. “They put their heart and souls into this campaign. Some of us who have been around politics a little longer know how this works. We know he endorsed Hillary because that is how politics work. It’s the only thing he could do to protect the platform issues he cared about.”
One of those who admitted Wednesday that Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton Tuesday “knocked the wind out of me,” was Debra Cohen, the co-founder of Sanders’ Connecticut Team.
Cohen, of Wethersfield, said she was “devastated” by the endorsement of Clinton, adding she was “still hoping for a miracle,” meaning that Sanders would somehow still win the presidential endorsement at the upcoming Democratic convention.
Clinton and Sanders fought a tough campaign in the Connecticut Democratic presidential primary in April, with Clinton winning by a 52 to 42 percent margin.
At the unity rally in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Clinton walked through a number of policy issues where Sanders had pulled her to the left during the course of the election — minimum wage, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, college affordability — to make a broader concession: the movement that Sanders created was nothing short of a political revolution.
“Senator Sanders has brought people off the sidelines and into the political process. He has energized and inspired a generation of young people who care deeply about our country,” Clinton said. “To everyone here and everyone across the country who poured your heart and soul into Senator Sanders’ campaign: Thank you.”
At the unity rally, Sanders declared: “I am endorsing Hillary Clinton. She must become our next president.
“This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face,” Sanders said as Clinton stood nodding at his side. “And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.”
The long-anticipated unity event, coming less than two weeks ahead of the Democratic National Convention, effectively puts to rest Democratic fears of a political nightmare scenario: that Sanders might sit on his hands in the general election, or worse, run as a third-party candidate on the left.
When Durso was asked whether he felt Sanders was forced to endorse Clinton earlier than he might normally have because of Trump, he answered, quickly: “Absolutely. Bernie felt pressured to come out for Hillary to combat Trump’s campaign of hate, his campaign of racism and bigotry. There is no doubt.”
Durso added that if the Republican candidate for president was someone who didn’t have the blue collar support that Trump has — “Say, a Jeb Bush — then I could have seen a scenario where Bernie would have considered a third-party run for president.”
Durso said what’s important now, “is to keep this movement going forward,” adding, “There will be other campaigns, other campaigners, not just on a national level, but on local and state levels with candidates that believe in our platform. We must keep energized.”
Lindsay Farrell, executive director of Connecticut Working Families Party, also put a positive spin on Sanders’ presidential run.
“Bernie’s campaign accomplished some remarkable things,” Farrell said. “It sparked millions of people to action by putting forward a bold, progressive agenda. It shifted the Democratic Party’s platform and the national dialogue, and it has inspired people to adopt it and run for office on it.”
Farrell added that there’s more to do.
“The political revolution doesn’t end, and it was always about more than one candidate and one election,” Farrell said. “In Connecticut, our focus is going to be on electing progressive champions at the state and local level who want to see the things we want, from a $15 minimum wage to making college affordable to getting big money out of politics.”