It’s beginning to look as though Bernie Sanders may have waited too long to start turning the battleship. The Vermont senator, who ran second to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, is trying to convince his army of passionate supporters to get in line behind Clinton and her recently named vice presidential selection, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
But after months and months of listening to Sanders blast the Democratic National Committee as corrupt for tilting the playing field to give Clinton an unfair advantage, the Vermonter appears to be having a difficult time convincing his supporters to change direction. And the release over the weekend of nearly 20,000 internal DNC emails containing evidence of actual pro-Clinton bias within the supposedly neutral committee can’t be helping matters.
In a speech to his delegates Monday, before the official opening of the Democratic convention, Sanders tried to make the case to his delegates that from here forward they ought to support the Democratic ticket. His biggest selling point though was not so much that Clinton would make a great president as it was that Donald Trump would make a horrendous one.
“We have got to defeat Donald Trump," Sanders said, adding, “And we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.” That second part of the message drew boos and catcalls from the crowd, but Sanders continued, characterizing Trump as “a bully and a demagogue” who “has made bigotry and hatred the cornerstone of his campaign.”
Sanders did not directly confront the delegates booing Clinton, but trudged on through his prepared remarks, having plainly failed to win his supporters over.
Sanders’ remarks came at almost the same time that news broke proving that his defeat of his nemesis, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was now complete. The Florida congresswoman, with whom Sanders has clashed angrily in the past year, had already announced that she would resign after the close of the convention.
However, when she appeared at a breakfast for Florida delegates in Philadelphia Monday morning, she was practically booed off the stage -- raising questions about what sort of reception she would receive from the convention as a whole, which she was scheduled to gavel to order at 4 p.m.
In the early afternoon, the Sun-Sentinel of Florida reported that Wasserman Schultz had decided not to open the convention. She told the paper that she had made the decision “in the interest of making sure that we can start the Democratic convention on a high note,” adding “this needs to be all about making sure that everyone knows that Hillary Clinton would make the best president.”
The potential for an embarrassing scene at the convention remains very real for the Democrats, but the reluctance of Sanders supporters to come around to Clinton has even graver implications for the November race. While experts believe that many voters will get over the anger at seeing Sanders lose and find their way to supporting Clinton, others insist they are so completely opposed to the former secretary of state that she will never receive their votes.
While Republican nominee Donald Trump has been making a very public play for disgruntled Sanders voters, the biggest danger is not that they will migrate en masse to the Republican ticket, which shares little other than opposition to international trade deals in common with Sanders.
The real worry is that they might just stay home in November. That’s a risk Democrats don’t want to take, and a reason why Sanders will have his work cut out for him over the next three months.