The diverse, outspoken and sometimes raucous Democratic Party was on full display on Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania yesterday. This is the party whose unity is likened to “herding cats.” On the other hand, the outbursts from some delegates at the convention hardly spelled doom and gloom, as some chattering heads on the cable TV news networks intimated. Rather, if you caught the unfiltered convention proceedings via live stream or C-SPAN, you saw a political party reach a noisy state of unity, as only the Democrats can do.
The DNC started out a bit rocky, as some boisterous pro-Bernie Sanders delegates chanted, interrupted speakers and were generally disruptive. First-hand accounts later indicated that much of the noise came from the California delegation, which, not coincidentally, was positioned directly in front of a bar serving lots of alcohol. A low point occurred when Congressman Elijah Cummings, who has a long public service and civil rights record, was partially drowned out by chants against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, having nothing to do with Cummings’ speech.
However, every mention of Donald Trump‘s statements and record, sometimes starring Trump himself on the video screen, provided at least temporary consensus in the crowd. Likewise, a dust-up over some Democratic National Committee internal emails sent during Bernie Sanders’ primary battles against the Democratic Party quickly turned into a much more serious issue, requiring an FBI investigation, about email hacking of the Democrats by Russia on behalf of, and possibly with criminal participation by, Donald Trump.
The DNC was a showcase of diversity, including blacks, Latinos, Asians, LGBT people, children and the disabled. Many of these speakers reminded the audience that the Democratic Party has their backs, while Trump and the Republicans are out for themselves and their corporate overlords. Some observers said that they saw more diversity in one day of the DNC than at all four days of the ill-fated Republican National Convention last week.
The turning point of the day may have come during the presentations by comedians Al Franken and Sarah Silverman. First, Franken warmed up the crowd with a funny yet hard-hitting satire about the crooked (and possibly fraudulent) Trump University. Then Silverman provided a smooth bridge from Bernie Sanders, whom she had vocally supported all along, to Hillary Clinton, who, according to Silverman, is “a pretty kick-ass woman” who “heard the passion of the people, the people behind Bernie, and brought those passions into the Party’s platform.” Silverman went on to say: “that is the process of democracy at its very best, and it’s very cool to see.” When some Sanders delegates refused to play along, Silverman admonished them with one of the best one-liners of the night:
Can I just say, to the ‘Bernie or Bust’ people, you’re being ridiculous.
This statement by Silverman received huge cheers throughout the arena, demonstrating that the vast majority of Democratic delegates are firmly on the side of unity. Afterward, musician Paul Simon came out to sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” a perfect metaphor for the day’s events, and the crowd responded by linking arms together.
As the outbursts grew fainter and the cheers for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party grew stronger, First Lady Michelle Obama gave perhaps the most moving speech of her public life, saying:
That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.
And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.
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.
Obama also had a veiled message for the Sanders die-hards, saying:
And when she didn’t win the nomination eight years ago, she didn’t get angry or disillusioned. Hillary did not pack up and go home, because as a true public servant Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments.
Michelle Obama was followed by liberal hero and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who thanked Bernie Sanders, hit Donald Trump hard, and heaped tons of praise upon Hillary Clinton in her endorsement, calling Clinton:
… one of the smartest, toughest, most tenacious people on this planet. A woman who fights for children, for women, for healthcare, for human rights. A woman who fights for all of us, and who is strong enough to win those fights.
Then, very late in the evening, Bernie Sanders took the stage and unequivocally endorsed Hillary Clinton. Sanders said that “based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.” Sanders then read a litany of issues, such as raising the minimum wage, healthcare, rebuilding America’s infrastructure, the U.S. Supreme Court, college debt, and climate change, and said that “Hillary Clinton understands” and supports the progressive agenda on each such issue.
Hopefully, uncooperative Sanders supporters will quiet down once Sanders formally turns his delegates over to Clinton after the roll call of states tonight. If any disruptive “Bernie or Bust” folks remain after that, they will need to have a new label applied to them: “Trump supporter.”
Photo by Dennis Redfield, used under Creative Commons license. https://is.gd/NCrZYg