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Crain’s NY: Sanders and Clinton New York delegates make amends on Day 2 of the Democratic convention

By Rosa Goldensohn, July 26

After a raucous night at the Wells Fargo arena in Philadelphia, Bernie Sanders brought his recipe for party unity to the New York delegation early Tuesday, telling his supporters to get behind Hillary Clinton and urging the Democratic establishment to open itself up to newcomers. Scores of Clinton-aligned New York politicos and devoted Sanders volunteers broke bread together at the downtown Philadelphia Loews hotel, the delegation’s official headquarters.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the stage with Sanders, but could barely get started over chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” While the senator’s pitch for Clinton got no boos in this room, unlike in the convention hall Monday night, the chasm between the buttoned-up party insiders and the button-sporting Sanders delegates was obvious.

The morning event was standard fare for party insiders: steam trays of scrambled eggs and platters of sliced fruit, a windowless conference room with a riser for cameramen at the back, elected officials moving briskly on and off the stage. Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, wearing a U.S. Davis Cup team tennis tracksuit, sat at the table closest to the podium, along with Rep. Charlie Rangel and former City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.

Some in the Sanders contingent said they felt like outsiders. “You’re seeing the establishment Democrats who are inside, they’re part of the club that we’re not in,” said Lisa Scerbo, a retired photographer and Sanders backer from Stillwater, N.Y., who was wearing a Sanders-as-Muppet T-shirt. “You come to a hotel like this and you witness the opulence … the Bernie delegates that I’m here with, we didn’t stay at this place. It’s $400 to $600 a night.”

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and a Sanders supporter, said she felt “a bit out of place” as an activist.

“This is all an inside game and I’m not usually an insider,” she said. “But I think it’s important for people, organizers to be on the inside with elected officials to sort of say, ‘We’re here, we’re on the inside too.'”

She also marveled at the lack of diversity in the delegation. “I’m the only woman in hijab,” she said. “In one of the most diverse states in the country, I’m the only person that looks like me.”

City Councilman Paul Vallone, casual in red-striped shorts and a Hillary button, said the rise of anti-establishment politics was “really important” to pay attention to. “That side is a-comin’,” he said. “And you’ve got to find a new world where everyone fits.”

The inside is easier to bust into than those looking in might assume, Assemblyman Dick Gottfried said. He got his start working for Eugene McCarthy in 1968, when “there were a lot of people who considered me and my friends outsiders.”

“If you haven’t been involved before, you shouldn’t be surprised that you don’t know the people who have been involved,” Gottfried said. “But the Democratic Party in most of New York is a very easy organization to become part of—or challenge.”