More Tumult Ahead at Messy Democratic Convention
Election 2016

More Tumult Ahead at Messy Democratic Convention

© Bryan Woolston / Reuters

Eight years ago, with the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for president a foregone conclusion, then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton officially released her delegates, giving those bound to her during the primary process the freedom to vote for Obama at the party’s convention. Going a step further, she stood on the floor of the Democratic convention among the delegates from the state of New York, and brought the roll call of the states to a halt.

“With eyes firmly fixed on the future, in the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and our country, let’s declare together in one voice, right here, right now that Barack Obama is our candidate, and he will be our president,” she said.

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To booming cheers, she continued, “I move Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclamation as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States.”

This evening though, with Clinton’s nomination for president every bit the certainty that Obama’s was in 2008, she apparently will not be afforded the same courtesy by her primary opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Sanders, given the opportunity to close the first night of the convention with a speech to the delegates, made it clear that he intends to require a full and public counting of all the delegates.

“Let me thank the 13 million Americans who voted for the political revolution, giving us the 1,846 pledged delegates here tonight – 46 percent of the total. And delegates: Thank you for being here, and for all the work you’ve done. I look forward to your votes during the roll call on Tuesday night.”

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The opening day of the Democratic convention was marked by chaos and division, beginning with Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz being booed off the stage during a meeting of delegates from her home state of Florida and eventually announcing that in the interest of party unity she would not chair the convention as planned.

Wasserman Schultz, who repeatedly clashed with Sanders during the campaign, was ultimately brought down by a massive leak of internal DNC emails that revealed members of the supposedly neutral party committee to be biased against Sanders and in favor of Clinton.

Sanders supporters, already angry and convinced that they had been cheated, were enraged by the emails, and they took out their anger on various convention speakers, even trying to shout down the woman delivering the invocation to open the proceedings. 

In the most uncomfortable moment of an evening that was full of them, comedian Sarah Silverman, a Sanders supporter, urged delegates to unify behind Clinton. Met with more shouting and catcalls from Sanders delegates, she paused a dialogue with Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and said, “To the Bernie-or-bust people: You’re being ridiculous!”

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The evening was not without its moments of grace. First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a masterful speech and was met with more respect than anyone else to take the stage Monday, either before or after, even as she offered a passionate endorsement of Clinton.

Liberal icon Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, was also well received as she delivered her signature attacks on Republican nominee Donald Trump. Warren, though, was not spared the ire of Sanders supporters in the crowd who shouted, “We trusted you,” at her when she endorsed Clinton.

Even Sanders himself, who had been booed by his own delegates earlier in the day by calling for the election of Clinton and her recently named running mate Tim Kaine, had to deal with angry shouting from the floor as he delivered the speech that brought the first day of the convention to a close.

The Vermont senator has plainly lost control of the movement that he built, and no longer has the moral authority with his supporters to shepherd them into line behind Clinton. In fact, by insisting on the roll call vote -- during all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five US territories will announce their votes one after the other -- he effectively gives his supporters 56 opportunities tonight to demonstrate that far from being unified behind Clinton, the Democratic Party is still bitterly divided.

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The Clinton camp tried to put the best face on things with press secretary Brian Fallon declaring that a roll call is a good thing. “It is exactly in keeping with our philosophy that every vote should be counted. And that means every delegate being counted on the floor of the convention,” he said.

But that’s not how Clinton herself felt in 2008.