Day 3 in the life of a Bernie delegate to the DNC: Morgan Johnson shares insights from the inside

This week from Philadelphia, demVoices is bringing our followers a view of the Democratic National Convention through the eyes of one of Ohio’s at-large delegates, Morgan A. Johnson. Morgan is a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders and served as the State Director for College Students for Bernie. We will be sharing posts from Morgan throughout the week, so stay tuned in on our social media! (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). You can also follow Morgan on Twitter @MAJ_OSU.

Read: Day 1 post

Read: Day 2 post

*Democratic Voices does not endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders, or any candidate in any political race


Lots to report from Day Three of the Democratic National Convention!

Hello, demVoices readers!

Today (Tuesday) was another early day for at-large delegates to the DNC, like myself. At 7AM, I began my new daily routine–heading downstairs to breakfast and grabbing my credentials.

This time, a new booth was at our hotel: C-SPAN.

Being a policy nerd, I am also a C-SPAN mega-fan. I showered them with thanks for providing us with clear, constant and instant access to the public policy process. Their reps were totally great. They even asked if I would do a short teaser for them about my experience at the DNC.

“I’m here representing millennials, an age group that has and continues to surpass Baby-Boomers as the largest voting bloc,” I said. “I’m having a great time advocating on behalf of my generation.”

It was really awesome to say the words out loud–that I was having a great time.

Truth be told, despite not having Bernie as my nominee, I’m learning how to pave the way for his vision for the future of this country in ways that don’t center around winning the presidency. Each and every Sanders supporter I’ve talked to lately is doing the same thing. We’re finding ways to carry forth the vision without the leading visionary from Vermont. This new stage gives us ownership of the process. Despite Bernie’s loss being a hard pill to swallow earlier this week, today, it feels like a victory. Progressives can now look beyond this election to a near-future where many of our social objectives can be achieved.

This realization renewed my enthusiasm. I was ready to take on the day.

Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government was hosting a focus group on millennial participation (or lack thereof) in the voting process on Day 3 (that’s Tuesday in my journey, since Day 1 was for traveling and initiation). Feeling this focus group might be valuable to attend, I encouraged my fellow young delegates from Ohio to join me.

Being a student of the Glenn College, it was a rewarding experience to encounter academic leaders working to create access and cultivate a passion for civic participation. My heart was full just being there.

I drank in all the stats. I spoke, and shared my personal input. Despite my generation’s earned characterization of possessing a “rational apathy” toward politics, my fellow millennial-aged delegates at the focus group represented our commitment to participating in the political process. “Rational apathy” is a phrase I came up with–the Harvard folks said that it was pretty good! That was my victory for the day.

Lamentably, one young woman sitting towards the front said she didn’t think she could support anyone for the presidency. She felt, as an organizer and an activist, that all parties and all candidates had failed her. She wasn’t planning on voting in November.

I don’t think a single person in the room didn’t empathize with her frustration. The political process can emotionally drain all of us from time to time. It can be tough. For the individual voter, the ballot itself is often a behemoth to behold.

After the focus group, I had a chance to speak with her further about her concerns. She shared with me thoughts on a myriad of issues in her community, and talked about her experience working to engage her community as an organizer. She shared her concerns about the school-to-prison pipeline and economic inequality. She shared with me her deep commitment to protest and activism.

I wholeheartedly believe in the strength and importance of protest, marching, and other forms of meaningful civil disobedience. These tools of activists are powerful and must happen for meaningful societal change to occur.

So I asked this young woman to consider something. Protest can be (and too often is) restricted to an area far from the center of power. Those in power can fence you in, and they can wall you out. They can send officers to enforce the laws as applicable. They can leave you out of the decision-making process.

But I also told her that there was no feeling more powerful than seeking credentials, finding a voice within the process, and making that voice heard. My experience has shown me that working for a seat at the table can amplify your message to those who would otherwise turn you away.

I told her that, as black women, this is an opportunity we would not have if not for other women like us, who stood in the face of animosity and demanded a seat at the table. She was a first-year political science student with a vision for how to make her community a better place. After talking with her, she said she was going to vote. Not only would she vote, she wanted to seek office in her own community after reflecting on our conversation.

This filled me up emotionally in ways that I had not thought possible, and it reminded me of Bernie’s vision.

Stay in it. Participate. Raise a little hell when necessary, but participate. Grow within these parameters, and be free to stand outside them. Be progressive, be independent, be a Democrat, be strong, and do good.

We did a lot of good. We did a lot of good by fighting to be on the convention floor, where most of us were newcomers. We changed a party. We emerged from this primary process as a sizable force for change and invigoration–a far cry from when others preemptively dubbed us a fringe campaign over a year ago. In fact, we were able to accomplish so much.

The other young delegates and I then headed to the convention hall for the roll call vote. Each of us reflected on how proud we were to be where we were, and vowed to one another to stay in the game.

IMG_0540

Morgan’s selfie with the Ohio delegation at the Wells Fargo Center

Once at the Wells Fargo Center, the prospect of a roll call vote reenergized us. We came here to finish what we started more than a year ago. It was about to happen.

While preparing for the roll call (the convention utilizes Robert’s Rules of Order along with other party rules), we enjoyed hearing from more speakers and musical performers. Nominations of Bernie and Hillary were held prior to the roll call vote. Hawaiian Representative Tulsi Gabbard had the honor of nominating Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton was nominated by the Representative from South Carolina, Elijah Cummings.

While the nominations began, a swarm of cameras and reporters began to poise themselves alongside the aisles just to the right of the Ohio delegation.

Ohio's own Nina Turner and Miss CJ. Two firebrand women in my delegation who pave the way! #BlackGirlMagic

Morgan’s tweet: “Ohio’s own Nina Turner and Miss CJ. Two firebrand women in my delegation who pave the way! #BlackGirlMagic”

Which state was to our left? Vermont! Bernie, whose campaign I organized around for the past year, was going to be right next door.

The roll call vote began. State by state, the respective party chairpersons shared their state’s delegate vote count along with beautifully iconic descriptions of the state or territory from whence they came.

When it was Ohio’s turn, it was an honor to hear in-person such positive things about our state, some said directly by Jim Obergefell from Cincinnati–whose landmark Supreme Court case established the rights of all people in our country to marry the person they love, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. Another great honor was hearing the number of votes we earned for Bernie from Ohio. I was so proud to hear–in numbers–the impact from all our hard work.

The roll call reached Vermont. I had the unique chance to stand right next to where Bernie would be speaking, and, ultimately, where he gave the nomination to Hillary Clinton by acclamation.

8-second video of my creeper-cam affixed to Sen. Bernie Sanders

In the moments before he read his short speech, I saw him and thought about how he was feeling. I imagined how his wife Jane felt. I saw his eyes fill with just a touch of all the emotions his delegates were feeling.

Ultimately, I take solace in knowing we won the greatest battle for the future, by introducing leagues of progressive newcomers to the democratic process. We helped craft the most progressive platform the Democratic Party has ever had. We pushed for equal access, equity, and justice. We significantly decreased the number of superdelegates that, in future years, will be considered in the process. We did a lot of good.

I couldn’t help but hold back tears as Bernie officially ended his race for the presidency. I’m sure I was crying and simultaneously beaming as I reflected on the achievements of our movement. For everyone in the room who hadn’t backed Bernie, this was a moment of celebration as well, as Hillary Clinton officially became the Democratic Party’s nominee for president–the first woman ever, from either major political party. I can take some pride in that, as well.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that this process requires an official nomination. Presumptive nomination and the numerical understanding that Hillary Clinton would become the nominee can still be semi-abstract realities for folks new to the process. But the unbridled excitement of her delegation could be felt all around us. This overlapped with some support from the Bernie delegation. The DNC officially had its (first female) nominee and its most progressive platform ever.

The convention wrapped for the evening and our buses were delayed due to some protests outside. My delegation opted to take the subway and managed to arrive safely back to the hotel, despite getting on the wrong train–what a stereotypical “Midwesterners travel to the big city” moment. (O-H!) Fortunately, some kind souls on the train, with whom we talked politics, pointed us in the right direction. Two conductors ensured we made it home, and showed us that kindness exists everywhere. Philadelphia opened its arms to us at-large delegates from Ohio, making me look forward to spending more time in the City of Brotherly Love.

Overall, this roller coaster has been rewarding. The victories we picked up along the way give me and fellow Bernie supporters the encouragement to stick with it through the tough parts of the convention. It was, nonetheless, touching to see Clinton delegates share joy in their victory and for the nominee that came out of this process. Ultimately, we are all moving forward together, and ensuring the kind of great nation we know we can be.

There is so much in store still from the DNC in Philly–I just can’t wait to share!

Until then!
-Morgan