Elections

‘Emotional roller coaster’ of a week for Bellingham Democratic convention delegates

Bellingham Bernie Sanders delegate arrives in Philadelphia

Dallas Roberts, a Bernie Sanders delegate from Bellingham, Wash., arrived in Philadelphia July 24 in time for the March for Bernie protest. He’s looking forward to meeting the senator during the Democratic National Convention.
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Dallas Roberts, a Bernie Sanders delegate from Bellingham, Wash., arrived in Philadelphia July 24 in time for the March for Bernie protest. He’s looking forward to meeting the senator during the Democratic National Convention.

This past week was an “emotional roller coaster” for the five Bellingham delegates and one alternate at the Democratic National Convention, said Dallas Roberts.

“You could use a beer after it ends,” joked Roberts, 23, of Bellingham.

All five delegates from Whatcom County cast their votes for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination. His loss made the week a mixed bag for Bellingham delegates.

It wasn’t all good, said Tatum Kenn, 18, of Bellingham. The lack of unity in the party fueled protests and she said the DNC behavior had been unfair.

Some of the convention’s flaws included poor cooperation with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Kenn said. She saw blind delegates who had trouble getting on the floor of the convention, and people in wheelchairs who didn’t have proper access to the microphone during the roll call vote.

“The DNC doesn’t have to follow ADA because they’re a private organization,” Kenn said. “It was kind of infuriating. … I just felt bad the whole time.”

For its part, DNC officials said they were “committed to the letter and spirit of the ADA” throughout the convention.

Delegates pledged to Sanders also felt snubbed during the first two days of the convention, Kenn added.

I’m sticking to the party. I just feel embarrassed to have to go back and say, ‘Yes, there are all these issues, and they didn’t address it.’

Tatum Kenn, Whatcom County delegate to the Democratic National Convention

“The whole thing was, ‘Hillary, Hillary, Hillary,’ and we hadn’t even voted yet,” Kenn said. “I understand she was the presumptive nominee. We all understand that. It’s just that we never got the credit for shifting the party left.”

Kenn said she’s worried to go back home and face the Sanders supporters she was selected to represent – but she won’t abandon the party like some of the more outraged delegates have.

“I’m sticking to the party. I just feel embarrassed to have to go back and say, ‘Yes, there are all these issues, and they didn’t address it,” she added.

Nickolaus Lewis, 34, said he agrees the Democratic party wronged some people during the convention. Those are the people, Lewis said, to which the party has to reach out in the future.

“We have to grow with the new generations coming in,” Lewis said. “They feel like they’ve been left out, forgotten. I’ve felt that way myself before.”

“We have to capture their voice, their passion, their energy, their intelligence,” Lewis added. “Because they’re the future of the Democratic Party, but only if they choose to be.”

Despite Sanders’ loss, Roberts said there were highlights, like arriving in Philadelphia via Amtrak train, seeing Sanders speak and finally casting his vote for Sanders on Tuesday.

“This week has been absolutely incredible,” Roberts said. “At the end of the day, it’s an honor to have experienced this convention.”

“It’s been good for me,” said Nickolaus Lewis, 34, of Bellingham. “Personally, I kind of block out the Bernie/Hillary stuff. … You can drop all the negativity. If you’re just here, there’s a lot of amazing people you can run into.”

I have to go back and watch that speech on YouTube, because it was so emotional at the time and so in the moment.

Dallas Roberts, Whatcom County delegate to the Democratic National Convention about President Barack Obama’s speech

Another one of Roberts’ standout memories was seeing President Barack Obama speak on Wednesday night. He called it “one of the best speeches he’s given of all time,” especially when the president thanked the Sanders delegates for the role they played in American politics.

“I have to go back and watch that speech on YouTube, because it was so emotional at the time and so in the moment,” Roberts said.

Lewis said he happened upon some of the Mothers of the Movement after their speech on Wednesday, and he’ll always remember trading stories and experiences with them.

“We were getting out of Ubers at the same time,” Lewis said. “I got to hear their stories about the things they go through, and Native Americans go through a really similar struggle.”

I’ll look forward to getting more involved in defeating Trump and helping raise awareness of the areas where I feel our party may be lacking.

Nickolaus Lewis, Whatcom County delegate to the Democratic National Convention

Seeing Clinton officially accept the Democratic presidential nomination was an “amazing experience,” Roberts said. “It cemented this moment in history, of having the first female nominee.”

“Overall I was able to leave with a very positive impression and more supportive of our Democratic nominee,” Lewis said. “I’ll look forward to getting more involved in defeating Trump and helping raise awareness of the areas where I feel our party may be lacking.”

“We may have lost, but we gained a lot,” Kenn added. “We may have not gotten the nomination, but we’re still a political revolution.”

Roberts said he met some delegates who had been to several conventions before this one in Philadelphia. It was only his first, but now, Roberts said he’s inspired to attend more.

“Whether I actually get to go every four years, who knows,” Roberts said. “I don’t want to miss one for the rest of my life.”

Michaela Winberg is a journalist and a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. This month, she will be reporting on the Democratic National Convention from Philadelphia as part of a groundbreaking project allowing students to cover the event for local newspapers, TV stations and digital outlets. Follow her on Twitter: @mwinberg_.

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