Vermonters At DNC React With Pride And Protest To The End Of Sanders' Bid

Jul 27, 2016

On Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Sen. Bernie Sanders put an official end to his presidential candidacy by formally moving to nominate Hillary Clinton as the nominee.

Sanders made his way into the convention seats at the Wells Fargo Center to join the Vermont delegation shortly before making the motion. Dottie Deans, chairwoman of the Vermont Democratic Party and a Sanders supporter, introduced the Vermont senator.  

“It’s been emotional. It’s just really been an up and down, all around,” Deans said shortly after Sanders asked all delegates to accept Clinton’s nomination. “I’m very proud of Bernie, very proud of what he’s brought to the political system. We needed the shakeup.”

Sanders, surrounded by family members, became visibly emotional as Deans praised his role on the Democratic Party, an organization he joined only after deciding to run for president last year.

His electoral defeat certain, Sanders in recent weeks has urged his followers to now shift their support to Clinton. He made his most forceful show of support at the convention Tuesday night, asking the entire delegation to accept Clinton’s nomination unanimously.

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A majority of his supporters last night appeared to be on board with that call.

Diane Lanpher, a delegate from Vergennes, says Vermont played a key role Tuesday night in bringing “unity” to the Democratic Party, factions of which have been sharply divided this cycle between Clinton and Sanders.

Lanpher says all eyes were on the Vermont delegation Tuesday – national television networks fixed their camera lenses on Sanders and the Vermont delegates he sat near Tuesday. And Lanpher says Vermont delegates delivered the image the country needed to see – adoration for the Vermont senator, but acceptance of his call to unite behind Clinton.

“I would say that was going to be Vermont’s role tonight,” Lanpher says. “It was particularly and especially important for our country that Vermont help lead in the calm in this convention.”

Not everyone is falling in line behind Clinton, however. Not long after the convention delegates cheered Sanders’ call to make Clinton the first major-party female presidential nominee in the United States, some delegates began leaving their seats and walking out of the convention center in protest.

Vermonter Noah Detzer were among them.

“We’re mad, we’re upset and we’re demonstrating that in a manner that is acceptable and appropriate but that is still firm and still says this process is rigged. Something was taken from us here,” Detzer said.

There were maybe 150 or 200 protestors; it was unclear how many of them were delegates. For Detzer, the most pressing grievances Tuesday were the rules that governed the nomination process.

Noah Detzer, a Vermont delegate from White River Junction, was among those who walked out of the Wells Fargo Center in protest after the vote.
Credit Emily Alfin Johnson / VPR

The outsized role of superdelegates, according to Detzer, gave insider elites the power they needed to facilitate Clinton’s win. And the leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee, Detzer says, demonstrate that party officials have been out to undermine Sanders’ candidacy from the outset.

Sanders himself has sought to undercut Detzer’s argument in recent days. Sanders says it’s true that superdelegates – who can vote for whichever candidate they want, regardless of the outcome of the primary vote in their state – are a scourge on the Democratic process.

But he says Clinton won more pledged delegates as well, and would have been the nominee even without the edge she enjoyed among superdelegates.

Furthermore, Sanders has told supporters, his campaign has won a hard-fought compromise to limit the role of superdelegates by the time the 2020 presidential race rolls along. A resolution passed by the DNC’s Standing Committee on Rules on Saturday create a commission that will return in 18 months with a plan to execute the superdelegate reforms.

"[Walkout occurred] to ensure that those grassroots voices are meaningfully heard in a gesture of solidarity." — Shyla Nelson, a delegate from the Norwich area

Shyla Nelson, a delegate from the Norwich area, says she doesn’t put much stock in a yet-to-be-named commission whose recommendations could ultimately be denied by the DNC.

She says she played an organizational role in the convention walkout Tuesday night, which she says was needed “to ensure that those grassroots voices are meaningfully heard in a gesture of solidarity.”

“Many of us including myself from our state of Vermont have been hearing from our constituents about their frustration about this entire nomination process, and the extent to which many feel the voices of the … average American have been marginalized or even disenfranchised through this election cycle,” Nelson says.

She says it was out of a sense of “moral responsibility” to the constituents that elected them to represent them at many delegates felt the need to act.

A new VPR poll finds that just over half of Sanders supporters say they'll vote for Clinton in November.

VPR's coverage of the presidential conventions is made possible in part by the VPR Journalism Fund.