Vermonters Anticipate Convention Speech From Bernie Sanders

As U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders prepared to address the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Monday, back in his home state, Vermonters were eager to hear what Sanders would say.

"He's a very brilliant man, I love to hear him speak," said Tom O'Reilly, who lives near Sanders in Burlington.

In Sanders' neighborhood, State Rep. Jean O'Sullivan, D-Burlington, recently purchased and handed out signs thanking Sanders and his wife. Implicit in the "Thank you, Bernie and Jane" signs was gratitude for the way Sanders prioritized progressive presidential campaign issues like the environment, getting corporate cash out elections, and the challenges facing low-and-middle-income earners.

"I would imagine if he was 10 years younger, he could've been president of the United States," O'Reilly said.

A major question in the coming weeks and months will be how many of Sanders' millions of supporters around the country will end up backing Hillary Clinton in the general election, especially after new revelations from hacked emails that indicate some party officials were biased toward Clinton during the primaries.

"I just hope it's a united front," said Liam Skelly of Wellesley, Massachusetts, who said he hopes Democrats can come together to defeat Donald Trump in the general election. "Hopefully Bernie can do that--get his voters and Hillary's voters together."

"I think a lot of people are going to be voting for the independent party," said University of Vermont senior Alec Woolf. "I think I'm leaning toward that because I don't stand 100 percent behind Hillary, and I don't support Trump either."

James Haslam, the executive director of the group Rights and Democracy, which backed Sanders because of his progressive values, told necn Monday he predicts the lasting impact of Sanders' candidacy will be a re-energizing of grassroots organizing for political causes.

"He started something that, by far, is not finished," Haslam said. "It's time for us to make our country actually have a democracy that serves the interests of the people and not just the wealthy few and a corporate elite."

Haslam said he hopes issues Sanders pushed, such as raising the minimum wage, a transformation of the nation's energy system, and breaking down barriers of structural oppression, will remain high on the Democrats' agenda.

Locally, Haslam said one legacy of Sanders' White House run could be helping grassroots groups like his to energize support for candidates at the state and local level in the upcoming Vermont primary, which is August 9.

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump referenced Sanders several times Monday in tweets, claiming the hacked emails from the DNC indicate Sanders never had a chance. Trump has repeatedly called the nominating process "rigged."

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