Las Vegas Sun

May 25, 2019

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Nevada delegates continue quest for unity

Democratic leaders came to this City of Brotherly Love in search of unity.

They haven’t found it yet: Tuesday, after Hillary Clinton was nominated the first female presidential candidate of a major party, a large contingent of Bernie Sanders supporters walked out of the Wells Fargo Arena in protest.

The wounds of the caucus and convention process in Nevada haven’t healed either. Morning meetings of the Nevada delegation today and Monday were marked by protestations from Sanders delegates, who are concerned about both the direction of the Nevada state Democratic party and the national party as a whole.

On Monday, some demanded an apology from the state party over the way the state convention was run. Today, they expressed frustrations over repeated calls for unity from party leaders, said that they felt they were pushed aside when it was Nevada’s turn to announce its roll call vote yesterday, and one even again demanded state party chair Roberta Lange’s resignation.

However, there was also a first inkling of hope for Nevada Democrats. After the morning meeting, a dozen or so Clinton and Sanders delegates crowded into the hallway outside a meeting room at their hotel in downtown Philadelphia to share their perspectives.

Where the morning meetings threatened to turn into shouting matches, delegates, for the most part, gave each other space at the impromptu gathering to explain where they were coming from.

They didn’t reach any sort of consensus by the time they finished and many still strongly disagreed with one another, but it was the beginning of a conversation they pledged to continue here and back home in Nevada.

Sanders delegates, for the most part, explained how when someone encourages party unity or asks when they are going to fall in line behind Clinton, it feels like the party is ignoring the substantive differences between Democrats.

Sanders delegate Adam Stuart Littman said that if the progressive wing of the party isn’t taken seriously, Democrats will lose a significant number of grassroots activist volunteers.

“There are real, core differences over the direction of this party needs to take,” Littman said to the group. “We need to respect our differences rather than say, ‘Oh, they’re not ready. They need to go through a grieving process.’”

During the morning meeting, Rep. Dina Titus told the delegation that Democrats are a family — that they have their arguments, but they always come together.

“You put all that aside and get back together,” Titus said. “You’re saying goodbye to the first African American president and hello to the first woman president.”

But Sanders delegate Angie Morelli said that remarks like Titus’s ignore the fact that there are real problems and divisions within the Democratic party. “They negate the fact that we have a movement that swelled up and proved that we don’t need corporate money,” Morelli said.

She asked Clinton delegates, as a place to start, to think about framing what they’re saying to be inclusive of the Sanders camp.

Clinton supporters pushed back, explaining why it was so hard for them to hear that some Sanders supporters weren’t sure if they can support Clinton.

“What we’ve got to deal with and be very clear with is what do we want as the end game?” said Clinton delegate Larry Mosley. “My concern is not having Trump at the head of the country.”

Incoming national committeewoman Allison Stephens said it was “hurtful" to see people act like who wins the presidency doesn’t matter.

“When you evaluate the pros and cons, it’s not enough that Trump isn’t okay,” Stephens said. “It’s about some high and mighty goal."

One Sanders alternate delegate, Alex Goff, said that he felt the discussion was missing perspective. He said that, as a black man, he cares a lot about who wins the election.

“Some of the language you guys use — Trump or Secretary Clinton — it matters a lot to me,” Goff said. “If he gets elected that’s going to give rise to a lot of bad things in this country."

Some Clinton delegates also shared how they felt they were trying — and struggling — to show compassion towards the Sanders camp. Lange explained how everyone in her family supported Sanders — all of her children and their spouses — and that she knew it was hard for them too.

“I get what you’re going through,” Lange told Morelli. "It’s hard for me to tell you that. I think you think it’s disingenuous. I want you to know I don’t know what you’re feeling, but I’m trying to understand.”

Lange said that, when everyone returns to Nevada, there will be a meeting between state party officials and Clinton and Sanders supporters, as promised during the delegation’s Monday morning meeting. Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison offered to come help mediate that meeting, as did Stephens as the incoming committeewoman.

Sanders supporters said they have been repeatedly asking for such a meeting after the state convention, while Lange said that Monday was the first she had heard of the request.

“Better late than never,” said Sanders delegate Joe Geremia.

Other Clinton and Sanders delegates shared conversations they had with delegates from the other side this week.

“I adore this man,” Littman said, putting his hand on Clinton delegate Cedric Williams’ shoulder. “We sat down the first night and had a lovely conversation together.”

Williams, in turn, said the conversation with Littman was the first time he put himself in the shoes of a Sanders supporter and tried to understand what they were going through.

“I cried like a baby,” Williams said. “I stopped and I realized. I felt the pain you’re feeling.”

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