Monday 19 February 2018

How a list of big names tackled the Democrats' unity problem head on

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Photo: PA
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Photo: PA
Supporters of Bernie Sanders march during a protest in Philadelphia (AP)

Andrew Buncombe in Philadelphia

They got them all on early - Sarah Silverman, Elizabeth Warren and, of course, Bernie Sanders.

If the Democratic National Convention looked like it was heading towards chaos and disunity early on Monday, a clever timetabling of some of the most outspoken supporters of Mr Sanders appeared to act as a relief valve.

With the anger, disappointment and frustration made vocal, the party and its delegates could then get on with the task of nominating Hillary Clinton and uniting around the candidate.

That, at least, was the theory of one senior party official, Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, a vice chair on the so-called Standing Platform Committee, who addressed delegates on Monday.

Asked yesterday about the party disunity that had been on display earlier - with even Mr Sanders being booed by his own supporters when he urged them to vote for Mrs Clinton - he said he believed the party was ready to move forward as the week progressed.

"It was a hot day in Philadelphia - people needed to blow off some steam," he told MSNBC. "Once that had been done, it all calmed down."

Monday had seen protests by 'Bernie or Bust' supporters, who said they would not vote for Mrs Clinton as she would be no better than the Republican candidates who had run for the presidency.

Their anger was heightened after the emergence of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) which suggested a plot to smear Mr Sanders and support the establishment's favourite, Mrs Clinton.

Mr Sanders found himself being booed when he urged supporters that there was no alternative but to support Mrs Clinton if they wanted to avoid Mr Trump becoming president.

On Monday night, the first person to declare herself a Bernie supporter was the comic, Ms Silverman, who said she had "felt the Bern", but had applied cream to it. "To the 'Bernie or Bust' people, you're being ridiculous," she said.

Elizabeth Warren, a favourite of progressives, who many wanted to be on the Democratic ticket, also said she had been a supporter of Mr Sanders but was urging people to vote for Ms Clinton.

"We're here tonight because America faces a choice. On one side is a man who was given money by his father. Who cares only for himself. On the other side, one of the toughest, most tenacious people. Our choice is Hillary Clinton. I am with Hillary Clinton."

The stage was then taken by Michelle Obama, the First Lady, who electrified the crowd with a speech in which she said electing Mrs Clinton would create an environment in which "my daughters take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States".

The final speech of the night belonged to Mr Sanders, the 74-year-old Vermont senator, whose insurgent campaign stunned observers and seasoned politicians - himself included.

He campaigned until the very end of the primary process.

Yet earlier this month, he endorsed Mrs Clinton after securing an undertaking that many of his policies would be included in the platform.

In his speech, he said there was no alternative but electing the woman he had fought hard to defeat.

"We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor. We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger - not leadership which insults Latinos, Muslims, women, African-Americans and veterans - and divides us up," he said.

He added: "By these measures, Hillary Clinton must become the next president. The choice is not even close."

Irish Independent

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