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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

Bernie Sanders rules the scene at the convention

Bernie Sanders supporters gather for a march before

Bernie Sanders supporters gather for a march before the start of the Democratic National Convention on July 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

PHILADELPHIA - Bernie Sanders has been on quite the winning streak since losing the Democratic presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton.
He got a prime speaking slot at the convention that begins Monday.
He bent the party’s platform to his agenda, with such progressive planks as free tuition at public colleges and universities, a $15 minimum wage, and a public option in Obamacare.
The party’s rules committee took steps toward changing the role of the notorious superdelegates, potentially binding two-thirds of them to the results from state primaries and caucuses instead of letting them vote as they please.
He even got a scalp for his belt on Sunday when Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation, two days after the WikiLeaks email dump that showed some staffers at the Democratic National Committee tried to undermine Sanders’ campaign. That only confirmed his fans’ certainty that the election was rigged against Bernie all along.
The faithful were gathering Sunday afternoon in Philly’s FDR Park just outside the Wells Fargo Center, site of the party’s convention, a more visible dissent than was seen at this point in Cleveland. Of course, these  are the Democrats, they love to dissent. A couple hundred sat near a stage that would be used in a rally that evening. It was blazingly hot, and so was their fervor. Once you’ve felt the Bern, you don’t cool down easily.
As they talked about their hero, a man’s voice broke in on the loudspeaker to announce, “The dream has come true! Debbie Wasserman Schultz has resigned from the DNC!” And the crowd cheered. To them, she was the first casualty of this new email scandal. But her departure also was an offer of appeasement from the party, which knows that Republican nominee Donald Trump is courting them.
Part of the mission for Democrats this week is to present a show of unity, especially to contrast with the fraying of the GOP last week in Cleveland. But it’s not going to be that easy, even though Sanders has endorsed Clinton and told his acolytes to vote for her.
“He can say that 100,000 times, that’s the only thing from him I won’t follow,” said Tina Widzbor, 38, of Baltimore.
She had never voted before — in any election — until Maryland’s primary this year. “And I felt like when I cast my ballot it went into a shredding machine,” she said, her words dripping with disdain.
Clinton’s nomination is a done deal, right? Not to this group. They’re looking at Tuesday, when her name is formally put into nomination, and seeing the possibility for suspense in what the party expects to be a highly choreographed affair.
“I want to see if \[they\] shoot themselves in the foot or in the head and nominate Hillary, in light of the recent revelations,” said Mike Chesser, a 60-year-old Virginian.
Or, as Kathy Davies of Akron, Ohio, put it: “We hope Bernie gets the nomination.” But either way, she said, “This is not over.”
They’re rooting for a messy process, spoiling for some serious push-back. And if they don’t get it, said Chesser, “I think a lot more people will be leaving the party.”
Davies has a different solution, though no less extreme and no less troublesome for Democrats. If Sanders isn’t the nominee, she’s voting for Trump. She doesn’t like him at all. But a Trump victory, she said, as painful as that might be in the short run, might force the Democratic establishment to finally pay attention to what they want and “get the revolution going.”
“If we have to have a crappy four years for them to learn, we have to have a crappy four years,” said Davies, 57. “I’m brave enough to do it.”
She’s far from alone. There are legions of passionate Sanders supporters here in Philadelphia. They’re eagerly waiting to hear what he says Monday  — and how he says it. They’re looking for a sign, some sign, believing, as Davies said, that Sanders didn’t really mean it when he endorsed Clinton.
The Democratic Party wants everyone to fall in line. The faithful in FDR Park say that’s not going to happen. We’ll see how much trouble that means for Clinton. November is still a long way away. But that’s the thing about passion. It’s eternal.
“I love my Bernie,” Davies said. “I’d give anything for him to be president.”