Elections

SLO delegates paint two very different pictures of the Democratic National Convention

Bernie Sanders urges people to vote for Hillary Clinton, gets booed

Bernie Sanders, at the California delegation breakfast at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, says Democrats have to "defeat Donald Trump and elect Hillary Clinton," but not everyone in the crowd agrees.
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Bernie Sanders, at the California delegation breakfast at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, says Democrats have to "defeat Donald Trump and elect Hillary Clinton," but not everyone in the crowd agrees.

As the second day of the Democratic National Convention got underway in Philadelphia, the experience was very different for Clinton and Sanders delegates.

Mike Heyl, a retired teacher from San Luis Obispo and vice chairman of the San Luis Obispo Democratic Party, said he was feeling fantastic following the first night of convention speeches on Monday. Heyl is a Clinton delegate.

“Michelle Obama was easily the highlight of my night,” Heyl said. “I’ll never forget it –– they go low and we go high –– I loved that.”

Heyl said the vibe throughout the arena was electric.

“I had a flashback to when I was in Chicago

20 years ago,” he said. “The energy just kept building as the night went on. From Elizabeth Warren to Cory Booker, it just continued to escalate. It was really great.”

Heyl attended the Democratic National Convention for Bill Clinton in Chicago in 1996 and has experienced many moments of deja vu in Philadelphia.

“One of the nice things is the citizens of Philadelphia, like the citizens of Chicago 20 years ago, are very welcoming, kind and proud of different parts of their city,” Heyl said. “I’ve been really lucky to see some great sights here, too.”

For Heidi Harmon, a San Luis Obispo resident and Sanders delegate, the convention is playing out a little differently.

“Honestly, I’m just sad,” said Harmon, when referencing Monday night’s speeches. “It was really hard to see Bernie up there. I was definitely fighting back tears.”

Harmon said leaked emails from some Democratic National Committee leaders was evidence to her that the party conspired to cheat Sanders out of a deserved presidential nomination, and the committee’s failure to acknowledge that during the convention was only making Sanders delegates angrier.

“I wish the DNC had the courage to allow an honest conversation to happen on the stage (Monday night),” she said. “These folks here who have fought so hard for Bernie deserved and needed that conversation to be in the public space.”

Shailene Woodley, an at-large delegate from California, was seated next to Harmon at breakfast Tuesday morning when Sanders spoke to the California delegation and urged them to support Clinton. Some in the crowd booed.

Afterward, Woodley said the Democratic National Committee “needed to acknowledge that they made a mistake. There is nothing wrong with that. No one should be booing on the convention floor, but you can’t just ignore the issue.”

Heyl, on the other hand, said the energy behind the Sanders movement has not had any effect on his convention experience.

“I mean, when you come to a political convention, there are always going to be differences,” he said. “I think those differences are what make our party great.”

For Heyl, the focus should instead be on the Democratic party’s biggest opponent, Donald Trump.

“He is divisive and he’s not qualified for the position he’s running for,” Heyl said.

Leading into Tuesday tonight’s convention, when Bill Clinton was expected to speak on behalf of his wife, Heyl and Harmon were feeling different emotions.

“I’m very excited to hear him speak,” Heyl said. “I’ve heard him speak probably half a dozen times over the years and he’s excellent. His connection to the audience just makes such a difference.”

Harmon said she and other Sanders delegates were trying to stay strong in a difficult situation.

“We’re in this really hard moment of having to accept something that doesn’t feel right,” she said, noting that some Sanders delegates are so upset that they’ve already left Philadelphia or are at least packing.

“Some people are feeling so done that I think they’re planning to go home early,” Harmon said. “There’s a part of me that wants to go home, put on my sweatpants, curl in a ball and not leave the house.”

Harmon said she hopes the angst Sanders delegates are feeling can fuel positive change — at least at the local level.

“People who are upset need to step up and run for office because they need a positive, tangible place to put all of their energy,” said Harmon, who ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly in 2014. “A lot of decisions on huge global issues are made at the local level.”

Taylor Carson is a journalist and a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. She will be reporting on the Democratic National Convention from Philadelphia as part of a project allowing students to cover the event for local newspapers, TV stations and digital outlets.

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