Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Democratic Convention Opens

The opening night of the Democratic Convention was emotional and raucous.  It reflected a hard fought primary campaign between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders.  

Many Sanders' supporters were fighting mad as a result of the release of emails by Wikileaks which showed that the Democratic National Committee was working against their candidate.   The resignation of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairperson, did little to quell Sanders' supporters.  As a result, they made their voices heard throughout the proceedings.  So much so that comedian Sarah Silverman, who had been a devoted Sanders supporter but now endorses Clinton, admonished them from the dais.  "Can I say to the Bernie-or-bust people," she said, "you're being ridiculous!" 

Democrats had hoped to exhibit a unified party to the millions of viewers watching the convention on television, which is taking place in Philadelphia.  But Sanders led a massive and passionately loyal movement that garnered nearly 45% of the delegates.  While polls show that 90% of Sanders' supporters will vote for Clinton, it was still hard for his delegates to accept they had lost.

In contrast to the dark and disjointed Republican Convention a week earlier, the Democrats wanted to present a united front and a progressive vision for the future.   They did so with a powerful and diverse array of prime time speakers.  New Jersey Senator Cory Booker railed against complacency and cynicism.  He attacked Donald Trump, saying, "When Trump spews insults and demeaning words about our fellow Americans, I think of the poem by Maya Angelou.  You know it begins: 'You may write me down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies/You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I'll rise.'"  He concluded, "With Hillary Clinton as our president, America, we will rise."

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the speech by First Lady Michelle Obama, whose impassioned remarks quieted even the most ardent Sanders' supporters.  "I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves," she said.  "And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters--and all our sons and daughters--now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States."  She then directed her remarks to Trump.  "So don't let anyone ever tell you that this country isn't great, that somehow we need to make it great again.  Because this, right now, is the greatest country on earth."   

Senator Elizabeth Warren, beloved by progressive Democrats, attacked what she called the "great Trump hot-air machine."  She charged, "Donald Trump goes on and on about being a successful businessman but he file for bankruptcy six times, always to protect his own money and stick investors and contractors with the bill."  She added, "So what kind of man acts like this?  What kind of man roots for an economic crash that caused millions of people their jobs, their homes, their life savings?"  She continued, "I'll tell you what kind of a man--a man who must never be president of the United States.  And for one low, low price, he'll throw in a goofy hat."  

But this was to be Bernie Sanders' night whose appearance brought the house down.   "I think it's fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am," he said speaking of his primary defeat.  "But to all of our supporters--here and around the country--I hope you take enormous pride in the historical accomplishments we have achieved," he said as many of his delegates watched with tears in their eyes.  Sanders detailed the party's platform, which now reflects many of his progressive positions.  He then forcefully concluded, "Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her tonight."

Even with the rocky start, the Democratic Convention offered a more positive outlook for the country.  Perhaps time will heal all wounds for even the most ardent Sanders supporters.  And maybe the thought of a Trump presidency will help convert them.  But uniting the party will take more than a great convention week and an opponent who plays on hate and fear.  

Even with Monday evening's impressive endorsements, Hillary Clinton has a lot of work to do to overcome questions about her trustworthiness.   

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