News Local/State

Democrats Begin DNC Divided In The City Of Brotherly Love

Bernie Sanders delegates to the 2016 DNC, Michael Harrington and Ed Mullen, both of Chicago.

Bernie Sanders delegates to the 2016 DNC, Michael Harrington and Ed Mullen, both of Chicago. Amanda Vinicky / WUIS

Republicans had their turn last week in Cleveland; now it’s Democrats' turn. Illinois’ delegates to the Democratic National Convention are in Philadelphia, where they’re set to nominate Hillary Clinton for President.

Philadelphia made efforts to make good on its “City of Brotherly Love” appellation: Greeters waited near the baggage claim, to welcome convention guests, with miniature colonial-era American flags and packages soft pretzels made in Philly.

Philadelphia, of course, the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Clinton fans are counting on the city to be the official launch pad of another milestone in American history: the first woman President.

But Democrats are starting things off openly divided.

Just yesterday, the party’s national chairwoman, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz, gave into pressure to step down over leaked emails that show the Democratic National Committee plotting to damage Clinton’s primary rival, Bernie Sanders.

Activists supporting Sanders protested downtown in the blistering heat all day Sunday.

“I was with the thousands of people from around the nation who are here protesting, and raising a voice. I was marching and carrying signs and signing songs and chanting and I’m hot and sweaty from doing that," said Michael Harrington, a Bernie Sanders delegate from Chicago who’d taken a break and stepped into the nearby hotel housing the Illinois delegation. “All of these people represent millions of people in their home states. I met people here from all over the United States who are here to say we want something different, and we’re going to make something different happen. I think it’s pretty big.”

Big enough that another Sanders delegate, José Alfonso Villalobos, says Hillary Clinton needs to recognize it, and built on what Sanders accomplished in the primary.

Villalobos, who lives in Elgin, was a founder of Kane County for Bernie, and proudly sports a Sanders T-shirt that reads “not me, us.”

“Our ... county won by 12 points over Hillary, so we’ve got those bragging rights right there," he said. "And I’m here to kick butt and take names.”

Sanders did win in Kane County, but Clinton took Illinois overall in March. Still, it was a narrow win, of less than 40,000 votes.

Villalobos says he’ll spend the week reaching out to Clinton supporters to get on board with the progressive movement, because both sides are stronger together, united.

"I don’t want to divide anything, I want unity as much as the next person, okay? But how we go about that is very important," Villalobos said.

But when pressed about whether he'll vote for Clinton, especially in the face of Donald Trump, he's noncommittal.

“This the thing: I need to hear from her … that she is going to build with us," he said. "Cause this is the thing: It’s not a matter of yes or no, everyone’s like then ‘Ooo, it’s Donald Trump who is will win everything.’ Look: I want to vote, for the right person alright. But you have to give me somebody who is going to fight for the right things. This is the thing: She is close, she is so close, she is so very close.”

Close, but he’s not ready to vote for Clinton yet.

Clinton has until November to convince Villalobos and other voters who are on the fence.

But the goal is to make it happen this week, at the carefully orchestrated political show that is the Democratic National Convention.