Yasmine Taeb doesn’t agree with Nancy Pelosi.
The Minority Leader is addressing the women’s caucus on day two of the Democratic National Convention, and she’s gotten to the gun control portion of her speech. The audience of about 200 (mostly women) is on its feet applauding Pelosi’s reference to last month, when Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor to force a vote on a “no fly, no buy” bill that would prevent individuals on terror watch lists from purchasing guns.
The crowd swells, and Taeb scoffs.
She has strong opinions about this. She’s a lobbyist at the Friends Committee on National Legislation where she focuses on civil liberties and human rights issues and she believes that the terror watch lists are flawed — she tweeted recently that “650k innocent people are on discriminatory watch lists with no [due process].”
But as the audience stands and applauds Pelosi, Taeb stands with them. She even claps, her face neutral.
“It’s hard,” she said. “I’m the sort of person where I don’t want to offend anyone. I’ll clap politely.”
If there was a picture to describe Taeb’s experience at the DNC, it would be this: tepidly clapping for an establishment Democratic figure as she delivers an applause line with which Taeb disagrees.
Taeb is a newly elected member of the Democratic National Committee in the Virginia delegation, and she wants a Democrat in the White House. This is complicated though, by the fact that Taeb was elected to her position as a Sanders delegate.
She balances the line of trying to persuade her colleagues to support the Democratic ticket without alienating the base that elected her.
Around her, fellow Sanders supporters cling to him and his progressive view of democracy, while Taeb and other pro-Sanders Democrats attempt to unify the party in the small ways they can.
As part of the Virginia delegation, Taeb is familiar with Clinton’s vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine, putting her in an ambassador-like position for the Clinton-Kaine ticket to the Sanders delegates.
“For me, and most of the Bernie delegates in Virginia, we obviously would've voted for a Democrat in November, but this helps,” she said. "Most of us have worked with him on his campaign, and he's our favorite senator, which isn't really a secret,” she said.
Her personal relationship with Kaine accounts for some of her affinity for him, but she sticks to policy when attempting to persuade Sanders supporters to get behind Clinton-Kaine.
“On the Iran nuclear deal, Kaine was one of the strongest supporters of diplomacy. Clinton’s rhetoric against Iran has always been pretty sharp — I would say she has some militaristic tendencies, while Kaine is cautious. He’s been a proponent of authorized military force against ISIS. He compliments her,” she said.
For those who support Sanders for his foreign policy, Kaine assuages some of their concerns about Clinton’s hawkish side.
“I was speaking to someone from the New York delegation, and I was explaining these things to her, and her eyes lit up,” Taeb said. “I said we like Kaine because he’s anti-war, and she said that’s why she supported Sanders, too.”
Despite affection for Kaine, the Virginia delegation itself isn’t a united front. A small rift exposed itself at the group’s Tuesday breakfast.
As delegates were sitting down with plates of eggs and bacon, Nic McCarthy, a national delegate and Sanders supporter, walked from one table to another to speak with the people seated.
At Taeb’s table, he leaned over and, in a stage whisper, asked the delegates: “Do you like clean water? Do you like ash in your water? Because Dominion is sponsoring this breakfast, and we’re planning to protest.”
“Dominion has been dumping coal ash into the James River,” McCarthy said in a Facebook Live broadcast. “We want green jobs, and we want green energy, and we want big money out of politics, and that’s local, too. Dominion gives a lot of money to both the Republican and the Democratic party, and it’s my understanding that there is not a single elected, state official that doesn’t take money from Dominion power.”
Taeb and three other delegates began attempting to dissuade McCarthy, asking him to take a different route. “This is our delegation,” Taeb said.
The protest ultimately amounted to two short chants at the end of the breakfast, a minimal disturbance compared with the convention floor the night before, when the invocation couldn’t be heard over the pro-Sanders protests.
But the incident illustrates the tension here that Taeb has to navigate: She must balance her progressive politics with action-oriented pragmatism.
“All of it is problematic, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “If you want a Democrat to win, if you want to elect a Democrat, this is part of the process.”
As Clinton officially clinched the nomination, Taeb — who hadn’t been sworn in yet as a DNC member and didn't have a floor pass — sat up in section 210, phone in hand. Her face looked similar to the way it did earlier in the day, when she clapped for Pelosi’s “no fly, no buy” line. Calm, if not indifferent.
“Even though I wasn’t supporting Secretary Clinton for the presidency, today was certainly a historic day for selecting the first female nominee for president,” she said.
Then her phone lit up with text messages. Her colleagues in the Sanders delegation were walking out of the arena in protest of Clinton’s nomination.
She declined to join them.
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