WASHINGTON (CN) — Bookended by key party endorsements for his opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders showed no sign of dampened spirits at a rousing rally Thursday night.
“It would be extraordinary if the people of Washington stood up and said, ‘We are ready to lead you into the political revolution,'” said Sanders, speaking to a crowd of about 3,000 outside RFK Stadium.
Washington’s primary on June 14 will be the last of the season before next month’s Democratic National Convention, where Hillary Clinton is expected to be crowned the party’s presidential candidate.
Having already locked up the necessary delegates, Clinton dealt additional blows to the Sanders campaign Thursday with bold-letter endorsements before and after his rally from President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Highly regarded in the same progressive circles pledged to Sanders, Warren made her announcement on MSNBC after delivering a damning critique of the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
For many wedged shoulder-to-shoulder into Maloof Skate Park for the Sanders rally, however, Clinton’s momentum posed little concern.
Cornel West told the crowd not to give up during his introduction of the senator from Vermont.
“I come from a blues people,” West said. “You never allow despair to have the last word. … We’re going to fight together, stay together, struggle together, because we’re fighting for something that’s bigger than each one of us.”
Sanders took to the podium amid thunderous applause and chants of “Thank you, Bernie,” and “Stay in the race.”
With his fist raised in the air, Sanders quickly launched into the usual touchstones of his platform: the need to overturn Citizen’s United, the need to upend the “rigged economy,” and the need to redirect the flow of wealth that goes to the top 1 percent.
“You can call it whatever you want, but it sure is not democracy,” Sanders said. “In fact it sounds to me like oligarchy.”
The crowd surged for Sanders when he spoke about the cycles of poverty and incarceration.
“Why are we spending $80 billion a year to lock up 2.2 million Americans?” Sanders asked. “We need to understand the cause of this issue and resolve it. It makes a lot more sense for us to be investing in education and jobs for young people. … I want our young people in school, not rotting in jail cells. I want this country to have the best educated population in the world not more people in jail.”
Many attendees grappled with how to redirect their enthusiasm in the waning stages of the Sanders campaign.
Standing out among a voter base of millennials that Sanders has enlivened, Gisella, a 44-year-old project coordinator for a D.C. nonprofit, said there is still fight left for the progressive agenda.
“I was just going to go back to my old self and give up on the whole political thing, but I thought, that’s not what Bernie would want,” said Gisella. “I’m politically involved now, and I’d definitely like to see something real happen in this country because we are too far gone.”
Regardless of what happens at the convention in Philadelphia, the party will follow Sanders’ advice and “work together to defeat Donald Trump,” Gissella said.
This objective would make a reluctant Clinton support of Sahil, 25, who owns the Cleveland Park restaurant Indique.
“I don’t trust her whatsoever,” said Sahil. “I would not be excited to do it, but I would probably still show up for a number of reasons — mainly to keep Trump out of office, as opposed to voting Hillary into office.”
Zach, a 22-year-old music teacher, said he also has anxiety about voting for Clinton.
“I have my own back and forth with Hillary, and I’m going to spend time in the general [election] figuring it out for myself,” he said. “I’m definitely not going to support Trump, I’ll tell you that. We’ll see what happens with the superdelegates, but I have my hopes.”
Sanders fanned the flames of his supporters by noting how far they’ve come.
“Well, here we are in mid-June, and we’re still standing,” the senator said.
Courthouse News reporter Britain Eakin contributed to this article.
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