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Pro-Sanders protesters marched from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center where the Democratic National Convetnion is being held this week. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

In Defense of My Fellow Sanders Delegates

Tom Gallagher

By now everyone who cares to knows that some Bernie Sanders delegates did some booing on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. Even booed Sanders himself when he spoke in support of Hillary Clinton. And then some of them even walked out of the convention hall after the roll call finally gave Clinton the nomination. Understandably, the usual condemnation has followed – from the usual sources. Well, I’m a delegate who did no booing and did no walking, but I want to say a few words in defense of my confreres.

Some of the condemnation naturally comes from Clinton supporters. But then they often seemed more eager to critique Sanders’s supporters than to actually find fault with his policies. You know, the Bernie bros, and all that. So as for them, I say let them – maybe we didn’t feel all that highly about the Clinton people either, although we generally considered it more important to point out the shortcomings in Clinton’s actual political ideas and history. But I do want to tell you that what some of these Sanders people did in the campaign was super – and I’m going to cut them some slack. In fact, I’m going to cut them a lot of slack.

Those of you with real live political work experience know that one worker is worth ten talkers. And you don’t get to tailor to order the ideal political volunteer. A lot of them are new to the whole thing – and you hope a lot of them will be new, of course. So they often come with rough edges and maybe a fair dollop of naivete. But you take what you can get and you’re happy to get them – very happy to get them.

Sometimes during the Sanders campaign someone might say to me, “I hear you’re working you ass off on the campaign,” and I’d say, “Please, you have no idea of the kind of work some of these people are doing.” I knew one guy who was between jobs and making phone calls forty hours a week. You couldn’t hardly go to a phone bank without finding him there. I used to question him as to whether he really had a home. When I was doing phoning to my original home state before the New York primary, there’d be a posting each day of the top phoners and there was a guy making over a thousand calls a day. And who knows what else? This was a internet based campaign and it was hard to know what all was going on out there. What we – and the candidate – did know was that the “political revolution” wasn’t just happening because of his fine speeches. The two million plus campaign contributors were matched by campaign doers.

So we get to the convention and it’s over. And a lot of people think a lot of things. Some think the nomination was stolen from us – and I don’t think that. But some think the deck was stacked against us – and I do think that. Most of it has nothing to do with cheating – but the fact that most primaries and caucuses make it difficult and sometimes impossible for independents to participate did mean that the candidate that virtually every poll said would be the stronger candidate in a final election could not actually win the nomination to be in the final election. And as to the feeling that the Democratic National Committee was prejudiced against this formerly independent socialist interloper trying to win the party’s nomination – well, Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation on the eve of the convention tells you all you need to know about that.

And yes, let’s remember that we were running a socialist in the Democratic primaries. Funny how this aspect of Sanders’s candidacy, which was supposed to permanently render him a fringe candidate, has hardly been mentioned in recent months. But the fact is that we had the real deal this time. People worked their hearts out for Sanders precisely because they saw him as nothing like Clinton (and certainly not like Trump). If we had a different type of government, the two sides might hook up to form a government after the election was over. But here we have to somehow find a way to merge before that and they’re being asked to turn on a dime.

Hillary Clinton is no way what we wanted in a president. So if it takes some of our people, particularly the ones who are new to politics, a while to reconcile to the situation that there’s no way around the fact that either she or Donald Trump goes to the White House and that she is the better option, well, I think we give them some time.

I get the sense that the main political involvement for some of the people going on about how badly behaved the Sanders people are may be chatting on Facebook. So I say, go easy on those “badly behaved” Sanders people. They’re doers. And without doers, there would be nothing for the talkers to talk about.

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Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher is a former Massachusetts State Representative and the author of 'The Primary Route: How the 99% Take On the Military Industrial Complex.' He lives in San Francisco.

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