To Bernie Sanders supporters who don’t think there is any meaningful difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, she says, “I don’t accept that argument, they are not the same, but if you really think that, only one will make history, so if you believe that women should have a chance ever, vote for making history and changing the game.” A step toward equality of opportunity for women won’t just be good for women, she added, but for everyone. “I'm an earthling,” she said. “We're on the planet earth. We want all of the earthlings to thrive and do well.”
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Victory Bell was born to sharecroppers in 1934. At the age of 8, his parents, tired of toiling for a white plantation owner with no opportunity to better their lot, decided to move north, to Rockford, Illinois, an industrial community 90 miles west of Chicago. He attended public schools there, got married after high school, and started a family. His earliest participation in the civic process came in the public schools, as he tried to ensure that his kids would get the best education possible.
In 1953, he got a job as a janitor at the local phone company.
The next couple years, he watched as white friends and acquaintances of his, people who graduated from his high school and started work at the same time, began to get promoted, while he was repeatedly passed over. Finally, he raised a complaint.
“I started to talk with the management about, something is wrong here,” he said. “Eventually, I did get promoted to supply clerk, where there was an opportunity to do all the ordering. I learned numbers. I learned how to deal with people on a conversation basis and moved up. I got into a nice job, then a training program with the telephone company. I was the first African American who was promoted into management.”
Meanwhile, he kept participating in politics at the local level. In 2009, when he stopped seeking reelection, he had served 38 years in an alderman, the last spent in one of the city’s most diverse districts. “I was not going to be put into a camp of representing just blacks or Hispanics,” he told a local newspaper upon his retirement. “I was going to represent the entire ward to the best of my ability. That would be inclusive of independent voters and Republican voters. It had nothing to do with their voting choices because that’s what I feel a taxpayer is entitled to.”
As we spoke, in the lobby of a hotel near downtown, a faction of Bernie Sanders supporters were nearby in a public square chanting “Bernie or Bust” and decrying allegedly corrupt forces in the Democratic Party that led to Hillary Clinton’s nomination.
For Bell, a decades-long member of the Democratic establishment—he has attended 11 conventions—the animosity and distrust were not mutual. “This convention is different because of the grassroots movement that a lot of Bernie supporters bring to the table,” he said. “A lot of young people have not been involved in the political process before, so there were more individuals who weren't just going to sit and listen to the status quo. They were interested in a revolution to get more people participating in the process. And I thought that was a positive thing.”