My Interview with a DNC Delegate

Steve Cohn is an NYC lawyer based in Brooklyn. This year, he ran as a pledged delegate for Hillary Clinton, with approximately 34,000 votes from the 7th Congressional District. Last Friday, I was privileged to be able to interview him, discuss his time at the Convention, and ask his opinion of the upcoming election.

Let's start with the basics. Who did you pledge a vote for?

Four years ago, Governor Cuomo appointed me super delegate for Obama from the congressional district of Nydia Valázquez. This year, I ran as a pledged delegate for Hillary Clinton, who had about 200 elected delegates from New York. I had about 34,000 votes in the 7th congressional district. 

Bernie came to the convention with about 100 delegates from New York. Originally the New York delegation, the home state of Hillary, had put her over the top for the nomination. However, due to the need for unity, Bernie and the Vermont Delegation were allowed to make the announcement.

It was an honor for me to vote for Hillary Clinton, and help elect the first woman Presidential Nominee in American History.

If you could classify the mood at the DNC, what exactly would that be?

The first day was incredibly interesting, based on what happened with Wikileaks and Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s emails. She worked very hard with the DNC, and her name was more or less synonymous with it. 

In my opinion, Bernie never liked Debbie. So, even though she had said all along that they’re running what I would call a “straight game,” Bernie was always a little suspicious of the DNC. And then it was weird to see Bernie’s suspicions vindicated.

So the big question was: should Debbie Wasserman Shultz gavel-in the convention? And there was a big push-me-pull-you mood in the air. So it was eventually decided that she would not and that Donna Brazile would be the acting chair of the DNC.

I had heard that on Tuesday morning she spoke to her Florida convention, and they booed her. She did make an appearance in the convention, but it was only peripherally. She stayed in the halls, and kept a low profile.

The biggest issue was that all week people had been saying how divisive the Republican National Convention was. And then suddenly, all the bad press about Debbie’s emails came out about the Democratic National Convention. And so we were, in a way, under the same heat.

 

How did the mood progress?

It honestly could not have been more perfect. The performers were amazing, especially Alicia Keys. The prime-time speakers had awesome speeches, and it really progressed very well.

The convention also did an excellent job at balancing the expectations of Blue and Black Lives Matter movements. People were considerate of others' emotions, and the convention offered a venue for both views to be respected.

Having the venue in the sports complex was a very intelligent choice. Everyone agreed that there was history being made. The second night, the New York delegation was given the front space right in front, next to the Virginia delegation.

Both the Virginia and New York delegation were both staying at the Loews hotel, so I’m inclined to think that was a sign that Kaine was chosen quite some time before his selection was announced.

-Bernie was very ambivalent-

It was right to do a row call vote. I believe that every delegate should have a chance to voice his or her conscience at the convention.

So it was decided that Vermont would be the deciding convention to have the announcement made. But Bernie went to the Vermont Delegation, and made a motion to amend the rules, and select Hillary by acclamation.

Do you think Bernie supporters will eventually make the shift? Did we see the beginnings of a division being patched up?

I think that about 80% of Bernie people are with Hillary, and are going to stay with Hillary. People were very committed to his candidacy, and what he was saying. They are not going to vote for Trump.

What were your thoughts when President Obama said that the most qualified person to be the president wasn’t him, nor Bill, but was Hillary

It was a great line!

She’s qualified, but she comes with a lot of warts and baggage. Can she present herself to the American people in the next four months as someone with her qualifications, who will have the best in mind for America?

She’s certainly the best to do the job, in my opinion. The American people don’t want another Bush… meaning they don’t want a dynasty, so will they vote for Clinton? I certainly hope they will, and I believe they will.

But then again, Trump is untested, and has never been in public office.

The 10% of independent voters are going to decide this election. The fact that Bloomberg came in and spoke for Hillary was helpful. She needed a billionaire’s support.

How do you think the swing states will play out in this election?

That’s a very interesting question.

You have to remember that Ohio is a second amendment state. They’re not for gun control. Why can’t there be a resolution in support for background checks. And why wouldn’t the NRA want to work something out about background checks? Ohio can go either way.

You also have Indiana, Florida, and Pennsylvania…  

I’ve seen pathways for her, and pathways for him. Certainly Donald Trump could get fewer electoral votes than she, but it’s a real race for president.

I will tell you that she’s a very hard worker. When she first wanted to be a senator from New York, she went on a listening tour to all of the districts in the state. She listened and learned.

Becoming president has to be done in the same way. It has to be done on a retail level.

 

What are you most nervous about when thinking about the upcoming presidential election?

I’m an optimist, and I thank G-d that every day a couple of million people ride the subways… and by and large, we get along and respect each other and help each other. And we’re there for each other.

No matter the outcome… whoever is elected will try his or her best to be the best president. And then we can decide 4 years from now if the person is doing the right job.

I don’t think that we need to be frightened in any way. Under the constitution to be President… two requirements are 35 and a citizen. Both candidates meet those qualifications.