A Clinton delegate from Marina del Rey finds inspiration in Philadelphia despite party divisions
By Gary Walker
Philadelphia appeared to be running short on brotherly love during Monday’s divisive start to the Democratic National Convention, but a local Hillary Clinton delegate also saw reason to hope the party could rally toward unity by week’s end.
Former California Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, a Marina del Rey resident, said Tuesday that she was beginning to see signs that the party’s different factions were gradually reaching détente.
But for those following the news from home, Monday afternoon was marked by Bernie Sanders supporters protesting not only outside the Wells Fargo Center but also on the convention floor, where some tried to shout down virtually any speaker who expressed support for Clinton during the early part of the convention’s raucous first day.
The hundreds of Sanders delegates among the 551-strong California delegation was the source of most of the vocal opposition to Clinton’s nomination, and Butler had a ringside seat.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve been attending these conventions since 1992,” Butler said. “I think their behavior has been really rude and disrespectful.”
During that first day, two Sanders delegates overheard a conversation Butler was having with other delegates and walked away from her after hearing Butler speak in support of Clinton.
“You literally had to be careful what you say depending on who you’re talking to,” Butler said.
Sanders supporters even booed Sanders, who on Monday urged supporters to support Clinton at the polls in November, when he addressed the California delegation on Tuesday morning.
“It’s easy to boo, but it’s harder to look your kids in the face who would be living under a Donald Trump presidency,” Sanders told his California faithful on Tuesday.
Reached by phone a short time after Sanders’ address, Butler said she thinks much of the hurt feelings and harsh language directed at Clinton can be attributed to new delegates inexperience with the electoral process.
“Many of them haven’t voted or participated in politics before, so they don’t understand how it works,” Butler said.
Despite the disruptions, Butler took solace in speeches delivered by Sen. Cory Booker (D- New Jersey) and First Lady Michelle Obama, whose inspirational address to the convention was universally applauded.
“Michelle’s speech was the highlight of the night,” she said.
Butler also noted that President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton — both known for their oratorical skills — would address the party faithful and Hillary Clinton would speak on Thursday, the final night of the convention.
“I’m sure all of them will be extraordinary,” said Butler, who during the Clinton administration worked on trade policy for the U.S. Department of Commerce.
This is Butler’s seventh Democratic National Convention, but none with such historic undertones as this one: the first time in history that a major American political party has nominated a woman at the top of the presidential ticket.
The significance is not lost on Butler, who works for the California Women’s Law Center and has been a longtime supporter of getting more women to participate in politics.
“It’ll be an aspirational moment” when Clinton speaks as the party nominee on Thursday, Butler said. “I remember when Karen Bass (D- Los Angeles) became the first African-American woman California Assembly speaker. I was in the Assembly and I literally cried that day. I remember thinking I thought I’d never see this moment, and I’m sure Thursday will be the same.
“The fact that she’s a woman is important, but what’s really important is that she is the most qualified person to lead our country,” Butler continued. “I’ve been to seven conventions, and while the issues have changed over time what hasn’t changed is that we need good leaders who understand that they have to work for everyone.”
Nonetheless, this year’s convention has been an eye-opener — especially when it comes to the dissent expressed by Sanders supporters.
“I’m hopeful that [Sanders] will be able to bring his supporters on board,” she said, “because we have a lot of work to do on issues like equal pay, protecting reproductive rights and income inequality.”