Bernie Sanders jolts Florida Democratic delegates with surprise visit

in 2017/Top Headlines by

Bernie Sanders made an impromptu appearance before the Florida Democratic delegation in Philadelphia Tuesday, less than eleven hours after he closed out the Democratic National Convention’s first night of the week.

Accompanied by a phalanx of reporters, cameramen and devout fans, Sanders swiftly moved up along the right side of the ballroom before Kathy Castor, who had spoken for about three minutes, gave the stage up to Vermont Senator, who again gave a (cliche alert) full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton at the conclusion of his remarks.

Sanders performed  poorly in the state’s presidential primary in March, losing to Clinton by more than thirty percentage points, which he immediately acknowledged in his brief remarks.

“Whether you supported me or supported Secretary Clinton, we all know what our task is, and that is to make sure that Donald Trump is not elected President of the United States,” he said.

Sanders said the problem with Trump wasn’t that he believes in certain things (like not believing in climate change) that orthodox Republican also don’t believe in. The problem, he said, was that Trump was “a demagogue, a bully and somebody who does not believe in the Constitution of the United States.”

“Our job in a difficult moment,” Sanders said, pausing almost after every word – “is to bring people together, not divide us up! “

He went on to say that it was the job of Democrats to support combating climate change, expanding Social Security, a Medicare for  all health care system, paid medical and  family leave and income inequality.

“Republicans don’t win elections, Democrats lose elections,” he said. “We lose elections when people give up on the political process and do not vote. We lost in 2014 when 63 percent of the American people did not vote,  and 80 percent of young people did not vote.”

While half of the delegation seemed in awe while watching Sanders speak, there were noticeably a number of Clinton supporters who sat and watched passively, with some with their backs turned as they consumed their breakfast. They finally stood and cheered only after Sanders again said it was the job Democrats to elect Clinton in November.

At his conclusion, Sanders thanked everyone in the room who supported either him or Clinton, saying that too few Americans getting involved in the political process.

“We have made a great start. Let’s go forward. Let’s elect Secretary Clinton. Let us transform this country. Thank you very much.”

And with that, he was off, and the way that the media and his supporters surrounded him as his security detail marched in front, he could have been Bruce Springsteen circa 1984.

“How cool is this!” shouted Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant. “Florida is epic!

After the buzz in the room began to subside, Scott Arceneux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Primary, called everyone to get back to their seats, or he joked, he wouldn’t allow them to eat breakfast on Wednesday.

More star power followed at the breakfast, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minnesota Senator Al Franken making appearance.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.