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July 26, 2016

Delegates react to Sanders' speech: 'He didn't surrender his positions'

'He didn't surrender his positions,' one delegate says

Charles DeLacey walked out of the Wells Fargo Center Monday night sporting a new piece of campaign flair.

A button pinned to his left chest featured the faces of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders beneath a slogan calling for united efforts as Clinton advances to the general election to face Donald Trump. 

DeLacey, an alternate delegate from Owensboro, Kentucky, remains attached to the message extolled by Sanders, the liberal Democrat who cultivated a so-called "political revolution" that gave Clinton a serious opponent in the Democratic primary.

But Sanders' message has shifted within recent weeks, culminating into a cry for unity during his keynote address Monday night at the Democratic National Convention. Unlike some Sanders supporters, DeLacey said he's prepared to back Clinton in the fall — though his nominating vote at the convention will still go to Bernie. 

Transcript: Bernie Sanders' remarks at the DNC in Philly

"Bernie Sanders wrapped it up very well," DeLacey said. "He didn't surrender his positions, which are not really his in the sense that they're for the people. At the same time, he recognized that we have to unite." 

Sanders' remarks capped a series of prominent speeches given by the likes of Sen. Cory Booker, first lady Michelle Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Sanders endorsed Clinton for president, running down the lists of her qualifications as a sea of "Bernie" and "I'm with her" signs populated the arena floor. 

It was a far cry from earlier in the day, when Sanders was booed by some of his own delegates when he urged them to support Clinton during a private meeting.

"That booing, afterward, sickened me," DeLacey said. "One, it's incredibly disrespectful for this man, who is the reason we are here and, for most of us, the reason we're involved with politics. What is their plan? Are they going to go rogue and have a bajillion little revolutions? 

"That's energy, basically, wasted when our strength is in our unity. Without our unity, we lose our strength."

Tensions between Sanders delegates and Clinton supporters were palpable throughout the day, according to Shelia Smoot, a Clinton delegate from Birmingham, Alabama. Sanders supporters demonstrated throughout the city, even jeering Clinton delegates as they approached the Wells Fargo Center. 

Smoot described mild tensions between the Alabama delegation, which largely supported Clinton, and the neighboring Washington delegation, which included a number of vocal Sanders supporters. But by the end of the night, Smoot said Sanders and Clinton delegates were hugging one another. 

"This is the Democratic Party," Smoot said. "This is what it's all about. Once we're over the emotion, our goal is to beat Donald Trump." 

To her, the turning point came when Michelle Obama took the podium to highlight Clinton's varied attributes, including her persistence. 

"She was the voice of reason," Smoot said. "I think you needed Michelle Obama to be the voice of reason." 

There was hardly an empty seat to be found in the arena as Obama ran down the list of Clinton's presidential credentials. The concourses largely remained vacant, more so than for any other speaker. 

But the cheers for Sanders were as loud as any speaker received. He had to pause to allow several ovations to pass before he could begin his remarks.

Nick Froehlich, a Sanders delegate from Cincinnati, said he hoped his fellow Sanders supporters would heed Sanders' call to support Hillary, saying Sanders' intuition about many other issues has been correct. But he also hoped Sanders' supporters will maintain their enthusiasm.

"This is Year One of his 10-year idea," Froehlich said. "His political revolution idea is not over. Before Bernie Sanders, there was no banner for progressives to unite under and there was no infrastructure. Now, we have both of those ready to go."