When Ohio’s 160 delegates to the Democratic National Convention gather for breakfast this morning, Cynthia Cox deBoutinkhar will be easy to spot.
“I will be the only Ohio delegate for either candidate wearing a hijab,” the Columbus physical therapist said.
DeBoutinkhar is both Muslim and Mexican-American — two identifying traits she says make it impossible for her to support Republican Donald Trump to be the next president.
“As a Latina, as a woman, as a Muslim that would be an absolutely horrible thing for people like me,” she said. “Donald Trump’s statements over the years and his actions against women, his statements about building a wall, the horrible things he said about Mexicans, and then saying he wants to ban all Muslims – it all makes defeating Donald Trump the No. 1 issue, period.”
Although she is pledged to support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and is hesitant to declare loyalty to presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, deBoutinkhar joins other Ohio delegates in a common purpose to defeat Trump.
“The Democratic Party as a whole, especially after Bernie’s endorsement of Hillary, is united in stopping the bigotry and hatred of Donald Trump,” said Kelly Harrop, 20, a first-time delegate from Delaware County.
A Columbus Dispatch survey of Ohio’s delegates showed that 89 percent believe it is likely Clinton will beat Trump, even though 28 percent of the Sanders delegates are not enthused that she’s the probable nominee and 23 percent say less than a majority of Sanders’ supporters will vote for Clinton. Another 44 percent of the delegates who returned the survey said Clinton is not the party’s best possible nominee.
“There are still some Sanders voters who need to be brought on board and I think the goal of the convention is for it to be this kumbaya moment for the Democrats and to show they are a party that’s unified versus the Republicans as a party that’s not,” said Ohioan Kyle Kondik, an expert at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
A Dispatch survey of Ohio’s Republican delegates showed more disunity, including 46 percent who said they are not enthused that Trump is the nominee, and 85 percent who do not view him as the party’s best possible candidate. Less than three-quarters believe he will win in November.
Among the Ohio delegates in Philadelphia, 80 are pledged to Clinton and 63 to Sanders, with all but three of the 17 so-called superdelegates — mainly elected officials and DNC members — committed to Clinton.
During the Ohio primary election campaign, which ended with Clinton winning a 13-point victory over Sanders, the state party stayed neutral and did all it could to avert any ill will between Clinton and Sanders backers heading into the convention, according to David Pepper, Ohio Democratic Party chairman and head of the delegation.
“We worked very hard not to put our thumb on the scale either way,” Pepper said. “So I think our effort to unify was helped by that.”
Just as Clinton seems to unite Republicans against her, Pepper said Trump “helps unify and motivate Democrats,” an observation perhaps borne out by the unanimity expressed by survey respondents on two key Trump proposals.
On questions about whether there should be a temporary ban on Muslims from other countries entering the U.S. and whether a wall should be built along the border with Mexico, 100 percent of the Democratic delegates said no to both questions. Some 71 percent of GOP survey respondents favored building a wall and 26 percent supported the Muslim ban.
“The Republican Party has a very ideological, right-wing, anti-immigrant bent to it and it’s portrayed in that survey,” said first-time Democratic delegate Mike Foley, 53, of Cleveland.
Foley, a Sanders delegate, said he loves “Bernie to death,” but will campaign for Clinton after the convention because the “difference in politics between Hillary and Trump is night and day.”
The hard-fought primary campaign has caused the party and Clinton to take “a more Bernie-centric view of the world,” making it easier for Foley to support the likely nominee.
“Hillary is a smart politician who understands the dynamics and will respect the sensibilities of Bernie’s supporters and the power that is developing in the more progressive wing of the party,” Foley said.
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