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Bernie Or Hillary: Catching Up With Young Democrat Roundtable


Bernie Sanders added to his winning streak in Wyoming last night, increasing the pressure on Hillary Clinton ahead of New York's primary.


BERNIE SANDERS: Let me give you a news bulletin. We just won Wyoming...


SANDERS: ...Which is the eighth contest in the last nine that we have won...


SANDERS: ...And now we are in New York.


MARTIN: Hillary Clinton is also in New York, and she told a Brooklyn rally yesterday that she is on a path to the Democratic nomination.


HILLARY CLINTON: I need to win big here in New York because - because the sooner I can become the nominee, I can turn and unify the Democratic Party like I did with President Obama back in 2008...


CLINTON: ...And the sooner we can go after the Republicans full time.


MARTIN: We wanted to gather some young Democrats together to hear how they are processing the campaign at this moment, so that's what we're doing now. We have invited back Nicole Castillo. She supports Bernie Sanders. Also Atima Omara - she supports Hillary Clinton. Joining the conversation is Akhurapa Ambak. He is a supporter of Hillary Clinton as well, and Aaron Wagner, who is also for Bernie Sanders. Welcome to you all.

ATIMA OMARA: Thanks for having us.

AKHURAPA AMBAK: Thank you, welcome.

AARON WAGNER: Hey, thanks for having us.

MARTIN: Yeah, so let's get it started. I'm going to start with Atima and Akhurapa. You're both supporting Hillary. Is the race, Atima, closer than you thought it would be at this point?

OMARA: No, actually, I don't think that it is. I mean, it is interesting, and then the last few races, obviously, in the last few primary weekends we've had - Bernie Sanders has won states. But in regards to the delegate count and the math, you know, Bernie actually won - when he won Wyoming, he did not win by a certain percentage that would have had him sort of catching up. He ended up breaking actually a virtual tie in Wyoming. So she's still ahead and he hasn't made as much of a dent as he's needed to. But it is an interesting race in that, you know, he is picking up some states as well so...

MARTIN: Akhurapa, how do you feel about this in this moment?

AMBAK: I think she's absolutely right. You know, the Clinton campaign has said since - for a year now that they expected this to be a hard-fought campaign. Senator Sanders has run a remarkable campaign, but it's just - it's not close, you know...

MARTIN: All right, Aaron...

AMBAK: Clinton has a large delegate lead and an even larger popular vote lead.

MARTIN: So let's bring in the Sanders supporters, Aaron and Nicole. The delegate math really still is heavily in Clinton's favor. The races coming up in the next couple of weeks favor her. How are you feeling, Nicole?

NICOLE CASTILLO: I feel really hopeful. I think - I feel like what's happening now is pretty unexpected and it gives me a lot of hope for moving forward. I think he's been able to convert a lot of voters. And the margin by which Hillary Clinton is winning in certain states is much lower than anticipated, so I feel very hopeful.

MARTIN: Aaron.

WAGNER: I feel hopeful as well and have been really inspired by the last, you know, eight of nine victories, and a Hillary supporter, a friend of mine, you know, pointed out that to carry this through, Bernie needs to win closer to 60 percent and Hillary 45. And Bernie's been clocking in at about those numbers. I mean, Wisconsin was a 14-point victory percentage point. Wyoming was 13 percentage points, and we're moving into states that are more progressive and more likely to support Sanders. And Clinton has run out of her, you know, stronghold among Southern states, so, you know, I'm optimistic moving forward.

MARTIN: You say more progressive states. There are more diverse states, the contest coming up, and these are demographics that haven't boded well for Bernie Sanders in the past. He has tended to do better in states where there's a more homogenous population - Aaron.

WAGNER: Yeah, I think that's a true point. And I think that, you know, Bernie and Hillary, you know, both need to be doing honestly a better job at, you know, tapping into more diverse voters. You know, I do believe that in the states coming forward that, you know, unfortunately the early states hadn't been educated as much about both candidates equally. And I think that, you know, people have become more educated as the campaign has moved on and that - the more education that gets out there I think can only help Sanders.

MARTIN: Sanders has done overwhelmingly well with young voters, right? He continues to do well with that demographic. Atima, you and I talked about this before when we were having a conversation, but why hasn't Hillary Clinton been able to break through with young voters?

OMARA: Well, I would slightly disagree with that. I think he's done very well with young voters who are more likely to be white, that they are more likely to be on a college campus. When you look at the actual breakdown, African-American millennials (unintelligible) polls reached out in February and March showed that she was doing much better with African-American millennials and Latino and Asian millennials. So I think it actually breaks down when you further look at the racial demographics of the millennial vote.

MARTIN: So I want to ask about a tense moment in the Clinton campaign this past week. Bill Clinton is out on the trail, on the stump for his wife. And he had a run-in with some protesters at a rally. They were criticizing the 1994 crime bill which Hillary Clinton supported and Bill Clinton aggressively defended the legislation, which many feel unfairly targeted African-Americans and led to mass incarceration in this country. I would put this to Atima and Akhurapa. I mean, how did you see this? Did you watch this unfold? I mean, as Clinton supporters, was this a moment that exposed a weakness for her, Akhurapa?

AMBAK: I don't think it did expose a weakness for her. I think we have to sort of engage in a much more nuanced conversation about the 1994 crime bill. We can admit and acknowledge and we should admit and acknowledge that the effects of mass incarceration were - have had a devastating effect - impact on African-American and Latino communities. But we also have to recognize that the 1994 crime bill create - included a lot of really great things, like the assault weapons ban, like funding for 100,000 new community police officers, like the Violence Against Women Act. We have to engage with the entirety of that piece of legislation and not just throw it all out because one aspect ended up having, you know, a really disastrous impact on certain communities.

MARTIN: Nicole, how did you see that? Did you think that it exposed a weakness for Hillary Clinton?

CASTILLO: I think what it is is it's, you know, as a voter I want her to reflect back on the impact of that legislation and to admit, you know, it had these consequences that the black community and other minority communities have been suffering for for many, many years. And so for me it's not just about the entire crime bill but about the self-reflection and the willingness to take accountability for what happened there. And I think, you know, as a Sanders supporter, one of the things that we're continually thinking about is Hillary Clinton's character. Yes, she has a lot of qualifications and a lot of experience and, you know, no one is under - trying to undercut that, but there is a sense of judgment looking back.

OMARA: Well...

MARTIN: Atima, go ahead.

OMARA: Yeah, I was just going to say but she has acknowledged that and she's acknowledged it repeatedly, even Bill Clinton himself has. And I think when he was speaking at that rally he was trying to speak specifically to the fact that at that time in the '90s crime was very high in communities. The CBC, a lot of African-American civic leaders wanted to do something about that particular bill and backed this bill.

Now, I mean, always hindsight 20/20. You realize that a bill's not going well. I mean, Hillary as early as the 2000s when she was in the U.S. Senate she advocated for Bill. She, you know, signed on to the End Racial Profiling Act a couple times. She co-sponsored or introduced legislation on COPS 2.0 that would actually increase partnerships with adding more officers to work with specifically communities on targeting areas that are having issues with crime as well as reducing mandatory minimum sentencing on crack and cocaine.

MARTIN: Let me ask you this, though. When Nicole says she's got a problem with Hillary Clinton's character, how do you hear that?

OMARA: (Laughter) Well, I think that generally what I've heard is that people think that she can't be trusted or that she goes back and forth. What I think that she has demonstrated is she's a very, very thoughtful person and that she's willing to admit that she evolves over time on her positions on everything, such as saying, you know, I shouldn't have said what I said in the '90s regarding the super predator remarks. So I like that in a politician, somebody who evolves and continues to think and, you know, I find that weird that people think that that's an issue.

MARTIN: I want to turn to Aaron and Nicole on a particular event that transpired in the Sanders campaign because he had an interview with the New York Daily News this past week in which he was criticized for being way too general, for kind of relying too heavily on his campaign platitudes and not being able to articulate specific plans to back up the promises that he's making, in particular breaking up the banks.

Aaron, how did you take that? I mean, do you - do you crave Bernie Sanders giving out more details that would back up some of this rhetoric?

WAGNER: No, I do think it's a fair criticism that Sanders needs to do a better job of educating the population about what his specific plans are to break up the big banks and in what way he plans to do that. I think that other sources outside of the one you mentioned, you know, have given him more of a voice to lay that out. And I think moving forward he is going to be more, you know, specific in addressing the issue. And certainly, you know, there's a precedent with FDR of having done it before, so - and it was successful. And I believe it's what this country needs right now. And I have faith that Sanders is at least going to try, and I don't have a lot of faith that Clinton really has any interest.

MARTIN: Nicole, is that what's more important to you, the fact that he just - he wants to try? I mean, whether or not Bernie Sanders is actually able to break up JP Morgan or Citibank and get that, you know, setting aside what it would take to get Congress to sign onto something like that, is it just important for you that he's talking about it?

CASTILLO: Yes, absolutely. I think you can see even within this campaign how much - him continuing to talk about this is catalyzing the conversation. So absolutely I think, you know, we are moving into a relatively unprecedented time. And do we - you know, some of the reviews that I have seen say we don't really know exactly what that will look like, and so he is being very honest. But I don't think that that means that he has no plan completely or that on some level that he's just giving false hopes.

MARTIN: So lastly, I want to ask all of you how you perceive this protracted race because we've seen the rhetoric get a little more intense over the past week and with each candidate saying you're not qualified enough, oh, no, you're not qualified enough, just kidding, you're both qualified. I mean, this is clearly more - it's closer than either candidate had wanted it to be. But the party eventually does have to come together, so I'll put it to you, Atima. If Bernie Sanders is the nominee, would you support him as wholeheartedly as you would Hillary Clinton?

OMARA: Yes because Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are not an option, one. Number two, I would also say for the record that Hillary never said that Bernie Sanders was not qualified. Bernie Sanders thought that she did and went into a conversation on that where he did say that she was - several times unfortunately. But I am glad that, you know, at some point as a party we're going to have to come together. I believe that we can and - to win in November.

MARTIN: OK, I want to go around the horn here. Akhurapa, if Bernie Sanders is the nominee, how do you vote?

AMBAK: I would absolutely vote for Senator Sanders. Yeah, I think that the party will come together. We came together after 2008. Secretary Clinton did a great job...

MARTIN: And you'll hope they'll do it again. I'm sorry to cut you off, but I want answers from...

AMBAK: I think they will.

MARTIN: I want answers from Nicole and Aaron - quickly, Nicole.

CASTILLO: Yes, absolutely, I think we have to unify as a party.

MARTIN: And, Aaron, I'm assuming your answer is the same, but would you support Hillary Clinton with much - as much enthusiasm as Bernie Sanders?

WAGNER: Not as much enthusiasm but I do plan to support her but I've also, you know, seen polls that say that, you know, up to a fourth to a third of Sanders supporters are saying they won't vote for Clinton. And whether I agree with that or not I think that's a major factor that Clinton's going to have to...

MARTIN: Deal with in the future.

WAGNER: ...Take into account moving forward, yes.

MARTIN: Aaron Wagner, Nicole Castillo, Atima Omara and Akhurapa Ambak, thanks so much for talking with us, all of you.

AMBAK: Thank you.

OMARA: Thank you.

WAGNER: Yes, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.