Recent grads heading to national political conventions
Seeking party unity over personal preference, an 18-year-old Columbus High School graduate was among the few Bernie Sanders delegates to not boo their liberal hero Monday afternoon, when the self-described Democratic socialist told them, “We must elect Hillary Clinton.”
David Smith is helping to represent Georgia at the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia. He is a pledged delegate for the Vermont senator, meaning he is committed to voting for Sanders during the first round of voting at the convention, even though the former secretary of state mathematically has clinched the nomination.
Smith cheered Sanders at the pre-convention gathering, he said, because he wants to promote solidarity with fellow Democrats and to prevent billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, from becoming president.
“Trump is a threat to this world, and we must unite,” Smith wrote in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer. “Hillary won (the nomination). We live in the real world, and we need to be a united front.”
The “Bern-or-Bust” delegates, Smith wrote, “are hurting his revolution by not following his lead and backing Clinton. Clinton is FAR, FAR, FAR more progressive than Trump. The revolution continues with Clinton; it dies if Trump gets into the White House.”
Sanders delegates continued to protest later in the afternoon when the convention opened in the Wells Fargo Center. They interrupted Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio several times as the convention’s permanent chairwoman spoke. Meanwhile, Smith continued to disavow their unruly behavior.
“Bernie told us to get behind Hillary,” he wrote. “These delegates who are chanting and yelling and booing are on their own. Bernie told us to unite, and I am following Bernie’s wishes.”
Smith added that Sanders also emailed his delegates the request to not protest against Clinton.
Major DNC news broke Sunday, on the eve of the convention, when the party’s chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., announced her resignation after thousands of leaked emails show Democratic National Committee officials favoring Clinton over Sanders instead of remaining properly impartial.
Asked for his reaction to the leaked DNC emails and Schultz’s resignation, Smith wrote, “She was one of the last Clinton holdouts in ’08, so there was an obvious bias there. DWS did the right thing resigning, and the emails confirm what a lot of Sanders supporters have felt. I think it hurts the unification process, but I think Clinton did the right thing in accepting this outcome. I think the party is just ready to move forward.”
Despite being disappointed about the internal controversy, Smith said he was “awestruck” when he finally stepped onto the convention floor as a delegate only two months after he graduated from high school.
“It’s finally set in,” he wrote. “This is real. I am here. I am so proud to be a Democrat!
Here are other excerpts from Smith’s pre-convention diary:
9:08 a.m. Sunday: Smith expressed his anticipation about the convention as he rode to the Atlanta airport for only the second plane ride of his life.
“It feels surreal honestly,” he wrote. “I still think someone’s going to pinch me and it’ll all vanish. To think this 18-year-old gets to help pick the next president of the United States ... it still hasn’t sunk in.”
11:52 a.m. Sunday: At the airport, Smith appreciated the relatively smooth security checkpoint.
“To my utter surprise, getting through the Atlanta airport was easy-breezy,” he wrote. “I thought it would be like getting into the White House, but everyone was nice and friendly! I’m amazed I’ve gotten through so hassle-free.”
5:36 p.m. Sunday: “Well, my flight was pleasant, and I’m finally here in the City of Brotherly Love! I’m going to a welcome party later tonight,” he wrote, “but, other than that, I’m going to relax!”
8:06 p.m. Sunday: At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where actor Sylvester Stallone famously ran up the grand steps in the “Rocky” movies, Smith attended a DNC welcome party.
“This is incredible,” he wrote. “I’ve never seen such a big museum! But, despite the fanciness, they’re serving chicken and waffles!!” No word on whether he has dined on a cheesesteak yet.
Smith met Democratic Party of Georgia chairman DuBose Porter and former Houston mayor Annise Parker at the welcome party.
“Everyone else was just a regular delegate,” he wrote, “no celebrities unfortunately.”And he made this sociological observation: “I could tell exactly which people were from the Texas delegation; they are a very loud people.”
The Ledger-Enquirer previously reported about the path Smith took to reach this point, as well as Columbus High classmate Tanner Goldsmith, 18, who wrote for the L-E about his experience as an alternate delegate at the Republican National Convention last week in Cleveland.