The DNC had an inauspicious start in Philadelphia. With WikiLeaks’ release of Democratic National Convention officials’ emails timed for maximum impact, an inescapable narrative emerged: The Democrat primary really was rigged against Bernie Sanders.
Many Bernie supporters suspected during the primary that the deck was stacked for Hillary Clinton, and for them this was now confirmed. In their leaked correspondence, DNC insiders weren’t just rooting for Clinton to win, they were apparently discussing active measures to ensure that outcome.
The uproar led to the resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, DNC chairwoman, on day one of what is perhaps the most important week for a person with her job title. In a nightmarish moment for the Democratic Party, Schultz was booed, aggressively and at length, at a preconvention Florida delegation breakfast Monday. It would be hard to conjure a scene that was a more blatant repudiation of the Democrat establishment by its own progressive left.
On the topic of terrible optics, however, there were plenty of moments on the Democratic convention’s first day from which to choose. During actual DNC speeches, there were repeated disruptions as boos rose up at the mere mention of Hillary Clinton’s name. Even cries of “Lock her up,” a chant made popular last week during the Republican National Convention, spewed forth from the Democratic faithful.
That an outraged “Sandernista” minority within an auditorium full of fellow Democrats would borrow the most hostile anti-Hillary chant from the most fierce Trump supporters speaks volumes about the progressive-establishment rupture playing out within the DNC.
The prime time speakers, as with the Republican Convention, were of uneven quality and depth. first lady Michelle Obama delivered arguably the most memorable and effective speech of the night. Her cadence was spot on, her charisma beyond dispute. One thing that can be said for the DNC organizers is that it was a wise decision not to have Obama speak on the same night as Clinton. The charm-challenged Clinton would not come off well by comparison.
Elizabeth Warren was not so lucky. She followed Obama’s remarks, and despite her second-only-to-Bernie rock star status among the progressive wing of the party, the senator from Massachusetts was obviously overshadowed. Without delving too far into the conspiratorial, it would seem a wisely Clintonian maneuver to make sure that the speech given by Clinton’s greatest female rival in the Democratic Party will be long forgotten by the time Clinton herself takes the stage.
Usually a steady voice with a calm demeanor, Sen. Cory Booker yelled for the entirety of his speech. The microphone in front of him might as well have been for mere display. The senator from New Jersey has long been a strong communicator for the Democratic Party’s message, but in trying to give an outstanding speech, in the end he just tried too hard.
On the other hand, the keynote speaker of the evening, Sen. Bernie Sanders, served his purpose with gusto. Sanders took to the podium to both give voice to his progressive supporters and give his full-throated endorsement to Clinton’s candidacy.
No individual was in a better position to unite the Democratic Party than Sanders, and he did a huge service to the Clinton campaign with his remarks. All that remains to be seen from the Sanders camp is whether his supporters will heed his call to unify behind a highly imperfect, ethically challenged, but progressive enough Hillary Clinton.
So day one of the DNC started off with disaster for the Democrats, but by the time Bernie Sanders left the stage at night’s end, at least some of that damage may have been mitigated.
Given the recent polls showing a big pro-Trump bounce after last week, we won’t know for a few more days whether the Democrats in Philly have the counterpunch they want. To be sure, some Democrats in the room clearly don’t have the candidate they want. But if after Philadelphia, they can all decide that Clinton is good enough, that may be all she needs to win.