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Sanders Supporters From Upper Valley and Beyond Say They’re Not Ready to Give Up

  • Former Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stands with the Vermont delegation and asks that Hillary Clinton become the unanimous choice for President of the United States during the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/28/2016 12:13:07 AM
Modified: 7/28/2016 12:21:32 PM

White River Junction — Speaking from the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, several Vermont delegates who have been die-hard supporters of Bernie Sanders say they’re having a hard time letting go of a candidate who had come to represent their hopes and dreams — and that condescension on the part of Hillary Clinton’s tone-deaf followers isn’t helping matters.

But some more senior members of the delegation, while acknowledging their passion, said it’s time for Sanders supporters to move forward and support Clinton.

“It’s very clear that we’re not wanted,” 23-year-old White River Junction resident Ashley Andreas said in a phone interview. “The Hillary Clinton supporters and the DNC are sending a message that, if we can’t play nice right off the bat, then we’re not going to be heard.”

Andreas was one of hundreds of delegates who, moments after Clinton officially accepted the nomination Tuesday night, walked out of the Wells Fargo Center and crowded media tents outside to express their dissent.

“My voice is hoarse from chanting,” said Andreas, whose love for Sanders runs so deep she has a caricature of him tattooed over her heart. “And the two main things I’ve been chanting have been ‘Bernie’ and ‘show me what democracy looks like.’ ”

Andreas and Noah Detzer, a 25-year-old Hartford High School teacher who also is a delegate, both said that they had substantive problems with Clinton’s policies, and her character.

“It’s the policies,” said Detzer, who said he resented national party leaders taking credit for progressive platform changes they fought against adopting. “It’s all milquetoast. Compromise is good, but not to the point where you don’t stand for anything. ... The problem with Hillary is that most of her decisions seem to be on popular opinion, not personal conviction.”

Detzer said he was driven to walk out of the convention hall by what he called a “discordant soundtrack” of Pharrell Williams’ light and gleeful pop song Happy, that ramped up over the hall’s loudspeakers just when Sanders supporters were feeling the most pain.

“I walked out, I think, because I was just so disgusted by the ridiculous cranked up volume of Happy. It was all these old rich white people getting up and doing this little dance. It was a horrific facade. I said, ‘I can’t be here right now.’ ”

Sanders handily won both the New Hampshire and Vermont primaries, but in Tuesday’s roll call vote for the nomination, he split the vote among New Hampshire delegates with Clinton, 16-16, thanks largely to Granite State superdelegates supporting her.

In Vermont, Democratic Party Chairwoman Dottie Deans, of Pomfret, announced a 22-4 vote in favor of Sanders, crediting him for leading a 2016 political revolution and saying he had “changed the trajectory of this country in a way that will make the lives of working Americans better for generations to come.” She then gave the microphone to Sanders, who made a motion that the rules be suspended so Clinton could be voted for by acclamation.

Despite such efforts at unity by Sanders, Vermont delegate Shyla Nelson, of Norwich, who earlier had taken the stage to second the motion to nominate Sanders, said there are deep divisions between the Sanders and Clinton camps that won’t be easily resolved.

“What I don’t think the Clinton campaign fully understands is that within one political party, you probably couldn’t have two more diametrically opposed candidates. Bernie Sanders is the most authentic statesman we have in our country, and Hillary and her record are fraught with political compromises and reversals. To ask us to just fall in line, they’re asking us for an enormous philosophical shift,” Nelson said.

All three delegates said they’d encountered personal animosity among Clinton supporters that made it more difficult to embrace the Democratic party’s first female candidate.

Nelson said that, when she politely responded in the negative to a question about whether she was ready to support Clinton, the questioner responded with “whatever, Ted Cruz,” a reference to the Texas senator’s pointed non-endorsement of Donald Trump during last week’s Republican National Convention.

“It’s very hateful. Certainly not effective,” said Andreas, who said that, while seated on the convention hall floor, she was holding a sign signaling her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement that Sanders opposes. “I had a gentleman sitting behind me, in the Maryland delegation ... . He told me it was stupid and I should put it down. He told me that we should leave.”

Detzer said he’d had mostly civil conversations with Clinton supporters, but that he was irked by what he saw as an air of superiority.

“The Clinton campaign has always treated Bernie supporters with condescension,” he said. “I’ve never once felt respected by Clinton. In reaction to that, the Bernie people aren’t being respectful either, and that’s not really accomplishing anything.”

Vermont delegation members were split about where to go from here.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Vermont state Rep. Kevin Christie said that, despite their warm feelings for Sanders, it was time to get behind Clinton to defeat Trump.

“He’s changed the direction of the party, and Hillary embraced it,” Welch said. “She didn’t reject it.”

He said he recognized the heartbreak Sanders supporters are feeling from conventions past, and that he hoped supporters would follow the leads of Sanders and Clinton.

“It starts at the top. Hillary’s been very respectful of Bernie’s accomplishments. That’s no accident. He struck a nerve. ... I would hope her supporters have the ability to be at least as generous in victory as Bernie has been in defeat. He has gone from revolutionary to statesman in this past week, calling for us to come together. ... All of us should emulate that example.”

Christie, a member of the Hartford School Board who has attended other Democratic conventions, said that, during a Wednesday morning breakfast in which Sanders addressed the Vermont delegation, it was clear that Sanders had wielded his political power to push the party to the left on key issues.

“People who might not vote and are looking to me to vote, for me, it’s about what I think is good for my family,” he said. “And any other alternative at the moment isn’t. So that kind of tells you where I’m at.”

The divisions between the different opinions within the Democratic party also will be played out at the state level, when voters in the Windsor 4-2 district will choose two candidates from a pool of four that includes incumbent Christie, Andreas, incumbent Gabrielle Lucke and former Hartford School Board member Jeff Arnold.

While Christie and Welch indicated their support for Clinton, Andreas, along with Detzer and Nelson, all used almost identical words to respond to questions about how they would vote in November.

At this time, they said, they were reserving judgment. They will be watching the Clinton campaign in the coming months, looking for signs that she is truly committed to the positions she’s articulating, and would consider all options, including voting for a third-party candidate who might be more matched to their ideals.

They seemed eager to demonstrate that Sanders’ legacy would not be reduced to a segment of the Clinton coalition’s foot soldiers, but would live on in more important ways.

“I believe very deeply that we must turn a focus to our down-ballot races, congressional and Senate and state,” Nelson said. “Whatever president we have, that’s one piece of a very big puzzle. We need to do everything we can to ensure that the agenda — and the movement and the platform issues that have become so dear to all of us — that we have advocates in Washington who are prepared to do whatever it takes to implement those policies.”

She has since left the convention.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.




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