Alaska delegates contemplate the after-Bern

One Sanders fan stated his position in lights on his back at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)
One Sanders fan stated his position in lights on his back at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Hours before the official start of the Democratic National Convention, Sen. Bernie Sanders faced a ballroom full of his delegates and tried to rally them to support Hillary Clinton. A few of Sanders’ Alaska delegates later spoke of the moment with a mix of sadness and pragmatism.

Here’s how it sounded when Sanders told the crowd what they did NOT want to hear: “We’ve got to defeat Donald Trump,” he began, to general cheering, “and we’ve got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.”

That’s when the booing started.

“I think it was really telling that a huge majority of the delegates in there were extremely upset,” said Olivia Garrett.

She certainly understands it. The 22-year-old, who is from Soldotna and now lives in Fairbanks, just might have been the first Alaskan to “feel the Bern.”

“I worked for the Bernie campaign. And I’m just crushed that he didn’t get the nomination. I mean, I’ve put my heart and soul into this,” she said. “I’ve been a Bernie fan since I was 13 years old.”

Garrett said the Sanders supporters need time to grieve. Alaska Democrats gave Sanders more than 80 percent of the vote in their March caucus, so he won 13 of Alaska’s 20 delegates. Garrett says some of the Alaska delegates remain in the “Bernie or Bust” camp, and she tries to respect that. But Garrett agrees with Sanders, that it’s time to back Clinton to defeat Trump.

“What I’ve never understood is the people who intend to vote third-party, thinking that they will somehow pull off a third-party win,” she said, “because it just cannot be done, and this is not the time to risk it.”

Genevive Mina, president of the UAA College Democrats, said she was moved when she heard Sanders recite his policy successes.

Nathan Sidell of Palmer poses with one of the Robin Hood caps Sanders supporters distributed at the Democratic convention. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)
Nathan Sidell of Palmer poses with one of the Robin Hood caps Sanders supporters distributed at the Democratic convention. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

“Talking about a $15 minimum wage, talking about trying to get single-payer healthcare, talking about fighting climate change, and recognizing this is after he’s gotten these same policies into the platform,” she said. “It’s really compelling to see what he actually has accomplished in his campaign, despite the fact that he hasn’t achieved enough delegates.”

Mina said she’ll vote for Clinton in November, but she’ll only campaign for state and local races. She says Alaska’s three electoral votes will likely go to Trump, and she plans to devote herself to down-ballot candidates, which she says are her priority anyway.

Nineteen-year-old Nathan Sidell of Palmer said he’s moving on, too, hoping to not only defeat Trump but also pull the Democratic Party to the left.

Sidell wore a stars and stripes kuspuk on the convention’s first day and held a green felt Robin Hood hat. The caps were handed to Sanders supporters on their way into his speech – symbol of Sanders’ position on taxing the rich, and a tangible souvenir of a campaign Sidell once hoped would end at the White House.

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