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How Will Bernie Sanders Supporters In Washtenaw County Vote In The General Election?

Oct 26, 2016

It's been a journey for voters who were hoping Bernie Sanders would win the White House.  

It was an unlikely candidacy that started small and built into a movement for democratic socialism.  Hillary Clinton is a far more traditional Democrat and ended up winning the party's nomination for President.  When Sanders bowed out, many of his supporters vowed to protest by not casting a vote, at all.  Then, Donald Trump won the Republican nomination.  

This is where some of Washtenaw County's Sanders supporters now stand.
 


"I'm going to vote for Hillary Clinton.  Although, if you asked me that question a few weeks ago, I probably would have said I wasn't going to vote at all."

That is Eric Bogard from Ann Arbor who attended the rally Bernie Sanders held on behalf of Hillary Clinton on the University of Michigan campus earlier this month.

"I like what Bernie has been saying about her, I like the merging of their two platforms, but I also feel like it's kind of an obligation, I can't, I would feel bad if somehow Trump was elected and someone was in the office that is a denier of climate change seems ridiculous to me."

And, when the Vermont senator speaks, his Washtenaw County supporters appear to be listening, and there are plenty of them. During the Michigan presidential primary, Bernie Sanders won 55% support among Washtenaw County Democrats.  Clinton received 43%.  

Ariana Senn voted for Bernie, but, like Eric, has decided to move forward.

"I think the Democratic Party certainly had favored Hillary a little bit more than Bernie, but this is where we're at.  We can't go back, we change it. We need to make the right choice at this point from where we are right now."

Many young voters are drawn to the Sanders platform because he advocates for free tuition at public colleges and universities.  That includes University of Michigan student Soraya Giaccardi.

"I think he brought it into the mainstream.  I think people weren't really familiar with some of the values of this movement and when they hear Bernie speak about it, they're like 'OK, that makes sense.'  I can get on board with that.  I just think it brought it more into the mainstream."

And the Clinton campaign did adjust its stance on higher education to try and be more inclusive for Sanders supporters.  Clinton has proposed all public colleges and universities be made tuition-free for students from families with incomes of up to $85,000 initially, rising to $125,000 by 2021. 

Still, for many, the vote they cast is less about Clinton herself than it is her opponent.  Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made that point during her visit to Ann Arbor.  

"I think they need to know that their vote makes a huge difference and that not voting is a vote for Trump.  And not voting is also giving up what's the greatest privilege of being a citizen, which is voting."

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell's 12th district represents a good portion of Washtenaw County.  She supports Hillary Clinton and says Sanders supporters here and around the state of Michigan have a key role to play.

"Do you think that we would be seeing so many important people visit the State if it wasn't?  Yes, we are a competitive state.  Nobody can take that vote for granted.  We need everybody, and we can and will make a difference on what happens Election Day."

Washtenaw County has drawn more than national figures and dignitaries to the community in the months leading up to the election, some of which aren't even from the United States.  Cathy Kavalassis is from Toronto and drove to Ann Arbor for the Bernie Sanders rally at the University of Michigan.  

"What happens in the U.S. profoundly affects Canada.  The United States makes policy decisions on the climate change.  We have all kinds of cross border things that are happening right now.  Pipelines that are going through."

Bernie Sanders will not be elected President.  But, his supporters in Washtenaw County and around the country may very well determine the outcome.  It depends on whom they vote for, or, if they turn out to the polls at all.

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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News.  Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him javellan@emich.edu