By Ken Stone and Chris StoneUsing #NeverHillary hashtags, some in the “Bernie or Bust” movement are swearing allegiance to Jill Stein of the Green Party.
That sends shivers up the spine of Rep. Juan Vargas, the two-term San Diego congressman whose 51st District borders Mexico.
“I understand that some people are disappointed,” Vargas said Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention, where he’s a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton. “But I’m also old enough to remember that we had a third party one time that cost us an election — and we got George (W.) Bush because of that.”
Not specifically mentioning Stein’s presidential race, Vargas told Times of San Diego that “we don’t need a Ralph Nader with gray hair.”
“The truth of the matter is we would have won that  election (and) we wouldn’t have had these disastrous wars if we had been united as a party — and if Ralph Nader had not run as a third-party candidate.
“So I’m trying to tell people: Remember history. You can’t forget history.”
Consumer advocate Nader, the Green Party nominee who likened Bush and Democrat Al Gore as the “Tweedledee and Tweedledum” of corporate interests, has rejected the spoiler story, however. And several studies also throw cold water on that belief, saying Nader’s 97,488 votes in pivotal Florida, where Gore lost to Bush by 537 votes, ignored other factors.In any case, the former San Diego councilman and member of the Assembly and state Senate says his role in Philadelphia is persuading Bernie Sanders supporters to unify behind Clinton.
“I think they’re being heard in an honest way,” he said of the Bernie backers. “We won’t be perfectly in synch at the end of the day, but I think we’ll all be united enough to be able to elect Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump.”
Several times he termed the California delegation “lively” with its 220-plus Sanders delegates.
“We have a lot of people who are very energized for Bernie, which is great. And now it’s taking a little time to understand that, you know, he didn’t win,” Vargas said. “The truth of the matter is he didn’t get as many votes as Hillary. We’re trying to convince them and let them see the light — and that is: This is going to be an incredible election. We’re making history — the first time that a woman is going to be president.”
He said such an outcome is “over 200 years too late. But at least it’s finally happening. They ought to be excited. And she is a good candidate. And she’s a good person. She’s someone who will work with everybody. They ought to be as tickled pink as I am and my wife is.
“But, you know, it takes a little time for them to realize that.”
What about Clinton’s trust issue?Vargas said her reputation is what happens “when you become demonized for 20-some years, when they attack you on almost a daily basis. … I hope that people take a look at the facts. I trust her completely.”
He hailed Sanders for “doing the right thing” and endorsing his rival.
“I thought it was a little later than it should have been,” Vargas said. “He should have realized earlier that, you know, he lost. He gave it a good run. (He) revved them up a little too hard at the end, knowing that he had already lost. Truth of the matter is: You didn’t win. He should have said that as opposed to ‘I’m going all the way.’”
Vargas, 55, said Clinton has the opportunity and ability to “win quite easily.”
“But if we divide ourselves, we could lose,” he said. “And once again, it would be a disaster for this country. We would not be in the situation we’re in today if it wasn’t for Ralph Nader. People forget about that. I don’t forget.”
Contributing photographer Chris Stone reported from Philadelphia and contributing editor Ken Stone from San Diego.
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