For much of the Democratic National Convention’s first day, there was really only one story that mattered: Bernie Sanders’ fans registering their dissatisfaction.
Sanders’ fans protested outside the venue and inside. They booed references to Hillary Clinton. They heckled speakers who supported Hillary Clinton. They tried to disrupt the opening prayer. They even booed Bernie Sanders himself when he tried to urge his most ardent backers to be constructive.
At one point, Sanders delegates from California were heard chanting, “Lock her up!” marking the odd moment when far-left activists effectively adopted the mantra of far-right Republicans.
Democratic officials and convention organizers were, to put it mildly, eager to make Sanders’ supporters happy. They fired the DNC chairwoman and scrapped her stage appearance. They apologized publicly and in writing for insulting private emails from DNC staffers. They adopted sought after procedural reforms. They changed the platform. They made Sanders the headliner of the entire night.
took the stage last night in Philadelphia.But for a very vocal minority, it wasn’t enough. It was against this backdrop that the Vermont senator himself
The audience had been given “Bernie” signs in a font and color reminiscent of Clinton’s branding as a subtle nod to unity. He took the stage to deafening applause as he wove Clinton into his stump speech, suggesting she fights for the same issues as he and his movement.“I understand that many people here in this convention hall and around the country are disappointed about the final results of the nominating process. I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am,” he said.“I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years,” he continued. “I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children.”“Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here tonight,” he closed.
It’s too soon to say with any confidence whether his most energetic backers were moved by his remarks, but let no one say Bernie Sanders didn’t try. His speech and his endorsement was unequivocal. There were no winks or nods intended to encourage additional disruptions. The senator has the long game in mind – he wants to build the foundation for a movement – and seems to realize that self-indulgent tantrums do little to advance his goals.
In the process, Sanders also created a striking contrast to the developments of a week ago.
In Cleveland, the Republicans’ runner-up also received a key, prime-time speaking slot, but in the GOP’s case, Ted Cruz decided to withhold his support for Trump. Instead of telling supporters to vote for his party’s nominee, the Texan urged Republicans, “Vote your conscience.”
Six days later, despite all of yesterday’s unrest, Sanders bucked that course. Democrats had reason to applaud – and exhale in relief.