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Politics & Elections

Lauren Niedel: At the 2019 New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention



A Great Big Room Filled with Anti-Trump Democrats

Saturday, September 7 was a preview of what could be considered the beginning of the end for many of the 2019 Democratic Presidential Candidates. The event itself started at 9am and finished up around 4pm. There were plenty of seats available in the 11,500 facility at around 12:30pm. All 19 Candidates were given the opportunity to speak to about 9000 rank and file Democratic Party members and guests.

There were many from Rhode Island who attended the event and tweets were sent out by the Rhode Island Democratic Party early on when candidates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg were speaking.

From the Rhode Island Democratic Party via direct message on Facebook:

“It felt really great to be in a room full of Democrats who were really unified around party values. Speaker after speaker drove home that we are the party of equality and opportunity, and that as a country, there’s more that unites us than divides us.”

An agenda was not available for members nor was an online version readily available. But there were probably over 40 speakers all told. Candidates spoke in alphabetical order. Union leaders, local politicians and various political operatives all had a chance to pump up the crowd. The delegates, visitors and speakers were overall very white and more women were in attendance than men – in New Hampshire diversity is a significant issue.


The first candidate to speak was former Vice President Joe Biden. He received a very warm welcome, but his ten minutes speech was plagued with errors, coughing fits and incoherent thoughts. His attempt to say the expression “existential threat” was changed to “not hyperbole” when he flubbed it up the first time. His speech was very short on substance and big on anti-Trump (or “Hump” as he once said, a Freudian slip) rhetoric. His big policy piece was to build on Obamacare and offer a public option.

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Of course, this is New Hampshire, so there was definite anticipation for the two New England Senators to speak, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Sanders was up first, at around 1:15pm. He was extremely well received with chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” when he arrived on stage. His talking points did not vary from what he has been preaching throughout this campaign and going back to 2016 and even 30 years before that. He spoke on income inequality, Medicare for All, free public college, investing in infrastructure and a woman’s right to choose. He also did not hesitate to speak out against Trump. At the end he received thunderous applause. His loyal following was there to support his efforts at the event and afterwards his supporters began canvassing.

Soon after Sanders, Senator Warren was up. She was a definite audience favorite. Plastic blowups were passed out in the crowd with the slogan “Win With Warren” (personally I thought this was environmentally irresponsible.) Her 10 minutes were more engaging than others. She is obviously courting the New Hampshire female Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan for endorsements as their names came up more than once. Warren spoke to the crowd vs at the crowd, which was received extraordinarily well. Her policy points covered free community college, investing in historically black colleges, cancelling most college debt and universal pre-k. A very telling quote from Warren’s 10 minutes was the following:

“I get it. There is a lot at stake. People are scared. But we can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in because we are scared. And we can’t ask other people to vote for someone we don’t believe in.”

This could be interpreted as a dig against Biden, and of course she railed against Trump’s inhumane and irresponsible policies as well.

All the candidates had a strong presence at the convention with booths set up promoting their candidates. Tulsi Gabbard had a nice set up as pictured below. I caught a glimpse of Senator Kamala Harris, who was swarmed by many women.


It will come as no surprise that I went to the convention to support Bernie Sanders. As a 2016 delegate and an early grassroots organizer I was encouraged to attend by Sanders’ New Hampshire Campaign Manager Joe Caizzio, who was also the campaign manager for the successful Rhode Island Sanders 2016 effort. After the convention, around 4pm, Sanders volunteers and supporters gathered at a nearby bar, Central Ale House, where the candidate had a decent set up, complete with an appropriate, very scary looking security detail. From there had teams went out canvassing. About 9000 houses were covered with a slew of volunteers who “knocked doors for Bernie.”

Prior to going canvassing, volunteers were greeted by Vermont’s very own Ben & Jerry – and of course free ice cream. Ben & Jerry had a little speaking gig where Jerry was enthusiastically jumping up and down entertaining all there. Opening speaker at the volunteer event was Sanders’ National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray, who spoke eloquently on Sanders’ mission and why she supported him. Also speaking was one of Rhode Island’s favorite environmental activists, Josh Fox. His documentaries on fracking were an eye opener and his support for Sanders is unwavering. His tee shirt, “Frack is Wack,” exemplified Sanders’ policy point to end fracking, should he be elected our next President.

Sanders then addressed his most loyal volunteers and staff members, many on the younger side. Here he missed an opportunity. Instead of engaging with this very knowledgeable gang with additional campaign insight, he pretty much repeated the talking points from earlier in the day. He did make a point to update his average donor amount $19. If Bernie is to win he needs to switch things up and give his supporters a more insightful overview of where the campaign is heading and what his personal vision is on how he will win. We all know that he has the organization to knock on more doors and make more calls than any other campaign. What we don’t know is how to win over those pesky superdelegates. On Saturday, Sanders’ team did release over 50 New Hampshire endorsements – mostly grassroots activists.

All in all it was a great day to be a Democrat in New Hampshire. People were energized, inspired and all who were there know who the common enemy is: The President of the United States, Donald Trump.

Lauren Niedel is currently a member of the RI Democratic State Committee - serving her 2nd term on the Platform Committee. She has been reelected for 2018-2022 session. She was also the State contact and delegate for the Bernie 2016 campaign.