Progressives at Netroots say this year, it's anyone but Trump

Progressives at Netroots say this year, it's anyone but Trump
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PHILADELPHIA — Progressive voters at this year’s Netroots Nation activist convention say they’re ready to throw their weight behind any candidate who wins the Democratic nomination.

Despite the raging battle between 25 Democrats currently vying for the party’s nomination, a remarkable number of the Netroots crowd over the weekend expressed a willingness to back whoever ultimately wins the party’s nomination — even if it is a more centrist candidate. 

“To me, it’s Bernie [Sanders] or Elizabeth [Warren], and obviously whoever gets the nomination, I will vote for,” said Natalia Reyes, an attendee from New York.

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“It could be Mickey Mouse,” she said.

While progressive figures such as Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Four companies reach 0M settlement in opioid lawsuit | Deal opens door to larger settlements | House panel to consider vaping tax | Drug pricing markup tomorrow On The Money: Trump dismisses 'phony Emoluments Clause' after Doral criticism | Senate Dems signal support for domestic spending package | House panel to consider vaping tax MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Sanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Democratic strategist: Sanders seeking distance from Warren could 'backfire' MORE (I-Vt.) are favorites of many of the left-leaning attendees, the position was a notable shift in perspective from 2016. Just a handful of people The Hill spoke to said they would be likely to vote for a third-party candidate if Warren or Sanders didn’t get the nod.

And the reason was equally clear. Attendees, above all else, want President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE out of the White House.

“Trump’s not getting another four years. It’s about survival,” said Armani Gladden from Brooklyn, who says he favors Warren. “God forbid it comes down to a person I don’t necessarily want ... but I want to make sure as much as I can that that doesn’t happen again.” 

Nicole Carty of Brooklyn said defeating Trump is also her ultimate priority.

“No question. Because Trump is the worst version of what America is and he is creating and dehumanizing whole populations and we can’t allow that to continue,” she said. “We shouldn’t be allowing it to continue right now actually, and we can’t take four more years of that period.”

Netroots this year saw its biggest attendance ever, with 4,000 people joining the three-day conference on progressive activist issues.

Four Democratic candidates, Warren, Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeOvernight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate John Kerry calls out lack of climate questions at debate CNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate MORE, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick MORE (N.Y.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, spoke Saturday at the keynote address.

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In the past, candidates have used the event as a springboard for their campaigns.

Sanders last took the stage at the 2015 conference, months before his campaign energized progressive voters in the 2016 Democratic primary. Sanders lost a hotly contested primary to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Clinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Saagar Enjeti: Clinton remarks on Gabbard 'shows just how deep the rot in our system goes' MORE, an establishment candidate who some on the left did not rally around to defeat Trump.

Sanders campaigned for Clinton, but has faced criticism that he could have done more to energize his supporters, and that he stayed in the primary race against Clinton for too long.

A few people who voted for a third-party candidate after Sanders’s defeat in the 2016 primary said they did not see their votes as costing Democrats the White House. But they also said they would not do it in 2020.

“I voted for [Green Party] candidate Jill Stein, but I did so strategically because I was in New York and knew New York was going blue regardless … it was a privileged vote,” said Reyes, who said she wouldn’t consider voting for a third party again.

“If you live in a swing state you cannot vote for a third-party candidate,” Reyes said. “I think there were a lot of voices on the left that weren’t making that distinction clear, and I’ve become a little bit cynical in that I don’t trust the average voter to understand those nuances.”

Stein in 2016 got 51,463 votes in Michigan, which Clinton lost to Trump by 10,704 votes. In Wisconsin, Stein garnered 31,006 votes. Trump’s margin over Clinton in the state was 22,177.

“It’s sad to say that America has a traditional two-party system, and I think we are working towards correcting that in some way, and I don’t think it’s quite there yet,” said Linda Moua, an attendee from Minnesota.

“So now if I’m going to be really honest, I would be voting for whoever is the Democratic candidate,” she said.

Some Netroots attendees said voting for a third-party candidate remained a possibility for them.

“I don’t know if one of those candidates will run on a third-party line, and that’s what I’ll be waiting to see. Who is going to have the balls to run on a third-party line,” said Ekoyo Atkins of Brooklyn, who voted for Sanders in the 2016 primary and Clinton in the general.

Gladden said he would also wait and see.

“Depends on the person,” he said. “I also want to win. I don’t want to lose again ... So you’ve got to look at it from a very sound idea of, ‘Where are the numbers going to fall?’ ”

Jake DeGroot of New York explained it another way: “I think of elections as picking the turf you want to fight on.”

“I’d much rather be fighting on turf where the groundwork is laid by even the worst Democrat, as opposed to being laid by Trump.”