PHILADELPHIA — Deeply divided Democrats spent the first day of their unruly convention here desperately trying to reassure everyone that their fractured, out-of-touch party is united heading into the November election.
The chaotic convention begins after a hotly contested primary season and as signs emerge that Republican Donald Trump could be cruising to victory in November. Famed statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight said if the election had been held yesterday, Trump would have had a 57.5 percent chance of winning the presidency versus Clinton’s 42.5 percent. According to Silver’s “Now-cast” model, Trump would win the battleground states of Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
“Don’t think people are really grasping how plausible it is that Trump could become president. It’s a close election right now,” Silver tweeted July 22.
Bernie Sanders supporters made their displeasure known, booing and interrupting speeches for hours. They even booed and chanted “Bernie” during the opening invocation.
Their fanatical devotion makes sense. As Jamie Weinstein of the Daily Caller astutely observed a few hours later on Fox News Channel, to his followers Sanders is more like a religious figure than a politician.
In the early part of the first day of the convention, loud boos rang out over and over again when Hillary Clinton or running-mate Tim Kaine’s names were mentioned. Sometimes the boos drowned out the speakers. Some angry Bernie Sanders supporters taped their mouths shut to protest how the party treated their candidate. At other times, the noise generated by Sanders delegates shook the Wells Fargo Center.
In Philadelphia the official theme of Day One was “United Together,” which ought to set off alarm bells.
The statement about party unity, it turns out, was aspirational, not factual. Monday was a down-and-dirty, raucous affair. Delegates sat through seven hours of speeches, live music, and videos extolling the virtues of Clinton and ridiculing Trump. Throughout the home base of the Philadelphia Flyers, 76ers, and Soul, there are “all-gender” bathrooms. Delegates displayed smartalecky signs reading “love trumps hate.”
Protesters arrived in seemingly greater numbers than at the GOP convention in Cleveland last week. They were angrier and more physically aggressive than in Cleveland. More than 50 of them associated with something called Democracy Spring were detained by police and issued citations for disorderly conduct. Some held a sit-in at an entry point to the convention site while others climbed barricades erected for crowd control.
And inside the convention hall the knives were out for those who resisted the so-called revolution led by Sanders, a self-described socialist.
As the City of Brotherly Love roasted in 100-degree heat, Democrats unceremoniously dumped the administrative head of the party, Democratic National Committee chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. She had been booed by fellow Democrats at events leading up to the convention — and for good reason.
It is really, really hard to get fired from the plum post of DNC chief but Wasserman Schultz managed to anger far too many people in her party. She got the bum’s rush because Sanders supporters are livid over the role she played in rigging the nomination process for Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t just her stubborn, unpopular refusal to increase the number of candidate debates. It was her apparent complicity with DNC officials in giving the Sanders campaign a raw deal. The DNC ended up officially apologizing to Sanders yesterday for unfairly ganging up on him.
But the treasure trove of almost 20,000 internal DNC emails published days ago by Wikileaks was the last straw for angry supporters of the Vermont senator who had naively believed the DNC was an impartial arbiter that didn’t take sides in the primaries. The DNC took them for suckers.
Emails were released in which Wasserman Schultz called Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver a “[d]amn liar.” DNC Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall proposed attacking Sanders over his religion or lack of one.You get the idea.
So hours before the convention was to begin Wasserman Schultz was purged.
The toxic party leader was booted not just from her role in gaveling open the convention but also from any speaking role here whatsoever. Instead Baltimore’s riot-enabling mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gaveled opened the convention. Wasserman Schultz will step down as DNC chairman after the convention ends. Former Al Gore 2000 campaign manager Donna Brazile will become interim DNC chairman.
As news of the congresswoman’s ouster from the party’s permanent campaign apparatus spread, the Clinton campaign promptly hired her. This move only served to underline Clinton’s corruption, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told the far-left Democracy Now! media outlet.
Assange actually made a lot of sense.
“So that’s a very interesting signaling by Hillary Clinton that if you act in a corrupt way that benefits Hillary Clinton, you will be taken care of,” Assange said.
“Why does she need to put that out? Certainly, it’s not a signal that helps with the public at all. It’s not a signal that helps with unity at the DNC, at the convention. It’s a signal to Hillary Clinton partisans to keep on going on, you’ll be taken care of. But it’s a very destructive signal for a future presidency, because it’s — effectively, it’s expanding the Overton window of corruption. It doesn’t really matter what you do, how you behave; as long as that is going to benefit Hillary Clinton, you’ll be protected.”
Meanwhile, Sanders seemed to be making a sincere effort yesterday to get his supporters behind Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand behind her,” he said in the final speech of the evening.
Sounding much like upstart Howard Dean after he flamed out in 2004, Sanders claimed that he started a movement that will stand the test of time.
“We have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution, our revolution, continues,” he said as many stood up and cheered.
Sanders railed against rising poverty rates and what he called the “grotesque level of income inequality” in America.
“If someone in this country works 40 hours a week that person should not be living in poverty,” Sanders said. Hillary Clinton “understands that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage.
He bashed the Koch brothers, two libertarian billionaires heavily involved in financing Republicans and sympathetic groups. “This election is about overturning Citizens United,” which he called “one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in the history of our country,” skipping over Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson which might be better choices. Of course Sanders also left out leftist super-donor George Soros and other members of the Democracy Alliance, a donors’ collaborative for leftist millionaires and billionaires.
There is a “movement toward oligarchy that we are seeing in this country” he said, sounding like a superannuated Marxist university professor.
Sanders tried to paper over past differences with Clinton saying conflict over policy was part of the process. “That is what democracy looks like, he said, adding that Democrats just drafted the most progressive platform in the history of the party.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was introduced by young, red-haired Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, also of Massachusetts.
Warren was certainly animated during her oration but it was uninspired. It was like her stump speech but the crowd went wild anyway.
The former bankruptcy law professor who invented her Native Indian heritage for fun and profit went through her litany of complaints about America. Of course she smeared GOP nominee Donald Trump as a racist.
She said the system is rigged. To say there is gridlock in Washington misses the point, she said, because “Washington works great for those at the top.”
She attacked Trump for running a “fake university,” and berated him for talking about “building a stupid wall.” His campaign is just one more late night informercial, she said.
With former President Bill Clinton in the audience, First Lady Michelle Obama wowed the audience without actually saying much of substance.
It was a tissue of bromides and warm feelings about the Obama years and the exciting prospect of America’s first female president all artfully stitched together. The delegates loved the feel-good address and made it clear they adore her. Some chanted “black lives matter” while she spoke.
“I trust Hillary,” Obama said. Later on she observed that “she never buckles under pressure.”
Many labor union presidents spoke but they all said more or less the same thing. It was the standard class-warfare buffet and demands that taxes be hiked. Nothing new at all.
Among them were AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka, AFSCME president Lee Saunders, SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry, Building Trades Unions’ Sean McGarvey, National Education Association’s Lily Eskelen Garcia, and American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten.
A constellation of highly paid movie stars brought the know-nothing glamor of Hollywood to the Wells Fargo Center. Actors Susan Sarandon, Rosie Perez, and Eva Longoria attended. Longoria gave a brief feel-good speech. Boyz II Men, Demi Lovato, and Paul Simon sang for delegates.
While roadies were preparing the stage for Paul Simon, comedian Sarah Silverman scolded those of her fellow Sanders supporters who had not yet fallen into line and embraced Clinton.
“To the Bernie or bust people, you’re being ridiculous,” she said alongside comedian-turned-politician Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.
She was booed.