Coming off a lopsided loss in California on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders vowed to continue his fight for the Democratic nomination all the way to the convention.
“We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C., and then we take our fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice to Philadelphia,” Sanders told the crowd at a hangar in the Santa Monica Airport, which cheered wildly. “Thank you all! The struggle continues!”
Though Hillary Clinton claimed victory in the Democratic primary at a Brooklyn rally earlier in the evening, Sanders gave no hint of winding down his campaign, nor did he acknowledge her insurmountable delegate lead.
“I am pretty good at arithmetic and I know that the fight in front of us is a very steep fight,” he said. “But I will continue to fight it.”
It was the answer the crowd wanted to hear. Earlier in the evening, amid reports that Sanders had sought a meeting with President Obama on Thursday, it appeared the senator might be preparing to drop out. Sanders was losing the California primary by more than 20 points when he took the stage, about 45 minutes late. As they waited for him to arrive crowd, the crowd struck a defiant tone, chanting “The media is corrupt!” and “Bernie or bust!”
“He should take the fight to the convention,” said Susan Hartley, 71, of Santa Monica. “The longer he stays in, the more leverage we have for the revolution we need.”
However, for some there was a hint of resignation as the California results showed a massive victory for Clinton.
“He is so far behind at this point, we know what is going to happen,” said Mila Todorova, of Los Angeles. “I’m just happy he got his voice across. He was the one true and honest person out there.”
In his speech, Sanders did acknowledge the importance of defeating Donald Trump.
“We will not allow right wing Republicans to control our government,” he said. “The American people, in my view, will never support a candidate whose major theme is bigotry.”
But he quickly added that defeating Trump is not his only goal: “Our mission is more than just defeating Trump. It is transforming our country.”
Nancy DelFavero, a Clinton supporter, said she empathized with the Sanders camp’s disappointment.
“I hope everybody can bury the hatchet and come together,” she said. “We just can’t have Donald Trump as president. That’s the bottom line.”
Her friend Neal Dickens, a Sanders supporter, acknowledged that the party needs to unite. But he also argued Clinton should heed the 45% of the Democratic electorate that backed Sanders and modify her approach to certain issues, such as campaign finance reform and health care.
“There has to be some negotiation on both sides,” he said. “She’s gotta extend the hand if she wants our support.”