PHILADELPHIA—Hillary Clinton was greeted as an interloper at her own convention, at least judged by the chilly reception she received on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. Amid a hacking scandal that exposed the Democratic National Committee’s bias towards Clinton during the primaries, Bernie Sanders delegates were in no mood to support their presumptive nominee. They booed in loud disapproval any time her name was mentioned at the outset of the convention’s festivities.
What followed was surreal. Former Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a liberal lion of the House when he served, was booed lustily when he arrived on stage. Rep Marcia Fudge, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, pleaded with the delegates for respect and not to shout her down. Even the pastor offering the opening invocation was drowned out when she mentioned Clinton’s name.
Welcome to the Democratic National Convention, which is shaping up to be as tumultuous as the GOP counterpart in Cleveland—pitting angry, vocal Sanders delegates numbering in the hundreds against the more-subdued establishment forces wondering what hit them. As the night wore on, Clinton’s supporters grew more energized, but scattered boos from Sanders’s allies continued. The party dispatched comedian Sarah Silverman, a Sanders supporter, to try to humorously defuse the tension. “Can I say something? To the Bernie-or-bust people, you’re being ridiculous.” During Elizabeth Warren’s speech lambasting Donald Trump, several dozen of Sanders’s boosters saved their ire for the progressive senator, shouting: “We trusted you.”
Sanders made a valiant effort to unify the fractured party, arriving to roaring applause and thousands waving blue “Bernie“ placards. He could barely start his own speech, being overwhelmed by the volume of his supporters. “Let me thank the 13 million Americans who voted for the American revolution, giving us the 1,846 pledged delegates here tonight.… I look forward to your votes in the roll call tomorrow night!” he began. He made several references to his own revolution before he even mentioned Hillary Clinton. It’s quite possible he received a louder, more rapturous reception than the Democratic presidential nominee will on Thursday.
But after a lengthy windup, Sanders finally offered a gracious endorsement. “Any objective observer will conclude that—based on her ideas and her leadership—Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.” As he continued to mention Clinton’s accomplishments, the Bernie die-hards continued to murmur their ire.
There was much that Hillary Clinton could be thankful for tonight. First lady Michelle Obama gave a stirring case for Clinton’s candidacy, while also picking apart Donald Trump with carefully-crafted warnings. “When we go the polls this November, that’s what we’re deciding—not Republican or Democrat … but who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of our lives,” the first lady said. “There’s only one person I trust with that responsibility: our friend Hillary Clinton.”
The first lady landed a few more blows against Trump. On his grim view of America’s current predicament, she rebutted: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you this country isn’t great. It’s the greatest country on Earth.” And she not-so-subtly questioned whether he had the temperament to be in control of the nation’s nuclear codes. “When you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips … you need to be steady and well informed and measured.”
For this to be a successful convention for Clinton, she needs to hope that the loud and significant progressive members of her party got their anger out of their system on Monday. With President Obama, former President Clinton, and newly-minted running mate Tim Kaine, there’s good reason to believe the best is yet to come for the Democratic nominee. But not if Bernie Sanders’s die-hards have anything to say about it.