On Convention’s First Night, Bernie Sanders and His Supporters Upstage Clinton

John Locher/AP

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.

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