In Philadelphia, Sanders' N.H. Supporters Say Progressive Movement Lives On

Jul 26, 2016

Bernie Sanders takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Senator Bernie Sanders closed out the first night of the Democratic National Convention with a prime-time speech where he urged his supporters to carry on the campaign’s legacy while also uniting around Hillary Clinton.

But earlier in the day, he also spoke directly to the delegates who traveled to Philadelphia to support him. That mid-day meeting did plenty to fire up New Hampshire Sanders delegates even before the convention officially gaveled in.

By her count, Ronna Hamelin had seen Bernie Sanders speak at least 15 times before.

Still, she couldn’t help but get a little bit choked up after huddling inside a ballroom with hundreds of other Sanders delegates, from all across the country, to hear from the senator on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

"Oh, I was blown away by it," she said, emotionally.

For Hamelin and other Sanders delegates who traveled from New Hampshire to support his campaign, the early afternoon meeting with their candidate was a welcome pick-me-up.

It was great to be together with 1900 of our best friends in a room that really reflected America – ages, colors, religions, backgrounds… it was wonderful," said Andy Volinsky, an executive council candidate for District 2 and a first-time convention attendee.

State Representative Renny Cushing, another delegate, felt similarly invigorated.

“It was the first time I’d been with so many Sanders supporters since the night he won the presidential primary and it recaptured that kind of magic," he said.

But if anything really fired up Cushing and the other delegates who showed up to hear Sanders’ afternoon address, it was the senator’s message that their work is far from over.

"It also kind of laid out the road forward. It’s not just about defeating Donald Trump in Nov – which, it’s really clear, has to be our immediate priority,  but it’s also about building an organization that will help elect people at every level of government."

At the meeting, Sanders told delegates about a plan to reorganize his supporters around new movement meant to keep the focus on the policies he pushed as a presidential candidate: enacting a living wage, finding solutions to climate change, passing universal health care, expanding college affordability, and so on.

Kurt Ehrenberg, who served as Sanders’ political director in New Hampshire, says he’s hopeful this new group might serve as a good outlet for the thousands of people who got involved with the Sanders movement in the Granite State during the primary.

"Now we’re going to move into a new phase this August, where people are going to be starting to organize again not for a presidential campaign, but for the issues we all stood for during the campaign," she said.

And by the time the New Hampshire delegation made its way into the arena where the senator spoke to the full convention Monday night, the energy in the Sanders contingent was hard to miss.

Over and over again, a group of Sanders supporters leapt to their feet – occasionally chanting "Bernie! Bernie!" – at mentions of the fight to reform the superdelegate system and other issues the senator focused on during his campaign.

Mo Baxley, one of the Sanders supporters who joined in on those cheers,  said later on that the Sanders speech was just the jolt she needed to start off a long convention week.

"After a long tedious bus ride here, to be with a bus ride here, to be in a room with the senator it’s like I’m here, I’m energized, I’m ready to go."

They’ll be in Philadelphia through Thursday, but they all agreed the work is far from over in the months ahead.