Day 1 DNC Diary: Cracks Beneath “Unity”

Lucy Gellman PhotoThomas Breen PhotoPhiladelphia — While protesters marched the downtown streets here Monday, decrying the presidential nomination system as rigged and nominee Hillary Clinton as corrupt, officials took the stage at the opening of the Democratic National Convention a few miles south and proclaimed, one by one, the virtues of a unified party.

The words didn’t always match the reality on the ground — in the street, or event in the halls of the Wells Fargo Center.

Day 1 at the convention, which took place at the center, bore out all of the passionate, substantive, sometimes contradictory, and always captivating debates that have roiled the Democratic Party this presidential cycle.

The Official Version

The party is stronger than ever, official speakers contended, in its historical mission to represent the interests of all Americans, especially the least privileged. “We have always been the party of the hard working, the voiceless, and the downtrodden,” Maine State Rep. Diane Russell declared early on in the proceedings, her arms held high in excitement and invitation.

The party is stronger than ever, they contended, in its embrace of what former NAACP-Chairman and current Bernie Sanders surrogate Ben Jealous described as the “most progressive platform in the history of this party.”

“To college students drowning in debt, join us at the ballot box,” he implored. “To communities suffering from mass incarceration and murder, join us at the ballot box. To those hard working families who feel that special type of pain when they realize their family can’t survive on an hourly wage of $7.25, join us at the ballot box.”

Most importantly for Democratic Party leaders looking to salve the wounds of a surprisingly contentious primary contest, the party is stronger than ever because former presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were now working together to help bring about a more just and equitable society, unified in support of Clinton’s nomination after a bruising primary season. To defeat Donald Trump. “Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are our champions,” former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb proclaimed. “And they both deserve our cheers.”

The Other Version

Thomas Breen PhotoFor the first hour or so of the convention Monday, a significant number of Bernie Sanders supporters in attendance put the lie to this projected image of unity.

They scoffed at the rules committee’s proposal to limit the number of superdelegates involved in future primary contests. They chanted over the chairman of the platform committee’s opening remarks with protestations against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). And they cheered enthusiastically whenever a speaker paid homage to their candidate’s primary victories and lasting ideological impact on the direction of the party.

Over the course of the evening portion of the schedule, prime-time speakers highlighting the many ways that the party platform had integrated ideas central to the Sanders campaign, room a higher minimum wage to expanded environmental regulations to plans to reduce college debt. Those cheers and jeers from earlier in the evening began to blend into the supportive sounds of that ideal pushed by the organizers of the convention from the very start: party unity.

This transition from vocal outrage to jubilant acceptance came across as a bit too smooth to convince at least this observer. While the evening’s speakers had indeed gone to great length to demonstrate the extent to which the party establishment had listened to and tried to incorporate the progressive ideals of the Sanders campaign, one fundamental principle went nearly unmentioned: campaign finance reform.

If the Sanders campaign identified gross economic inequality as the most important problem bedeviling American society today, then the foremost cudgel it identified in attacking that problem was campaign finance reform: overturning the Supreme Court Citizens United decision overturning reform laws, limiting the amount of special interest money used to prop up candidates in state and federal elections, and subsequently empowering anyone looking to better their community to run for office regardless of the financial resources they have at their disposal.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders received loud whoops of applause when they mentioned overturning Citizens United in their respective speeches before the convention Monday Night. But the issue of campaign finance reform was barely mentioned by any of the previous speakers during the first seven and a half hours of the convention. I believe the first speaker of the night to even mention the 2010 Supreme Court decision was Sarah Silverman, a comedian and Bernie Sanders supporter who shared the stage with U.S. Sen. Al Franken before introducing singer Paul Simon.

After the final speech of the night, I caught up with New Haven State Sen. Gary Winfield of Newhallville, who was in attendance at the convention as a Sanders delegate.

“[Sanders] did everything you hoped he would do,” Winfield said, praising the Vermont senator’s closing speech for its full-throated defense of the candidate’s progressive ideals while still calling for party unity behind Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump.

But he too noted a disturbing absence of discussion around what he sees as the most important issue of the election: campaign finance reform. Winfield endorsed Sanders early in this year’s primary season—and he identified campaign finance reform as a central reason.

“The other issues are ones that we as a party are more comfortable talking about,” he said. “But it’s a serious misstep to leave out such a critical issue. We have to deal with Citizens United first if we want to accomplish anything else [in the party platform].”

It’ll be interesting to see if a party swept up in calls of both protest and unity feels the same way about this issue, which has been so central to a campaign the Democratic Party claims to have assimilated without a hitch.

Tags: ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 26, 2016  10:18am

I have been watching on C Span so I do not get the propaganda speak overs. I want to watch what each speaker has to say. It is important. Did i do a little boo from my living room. Yes, I am a Bernie supporter. And a few things were unsettling. But elections have to be about compromise. How ever hard that is. We need to find that middle ground and move forward. I personally am still not sure who will get my vote in Nov. I do know it will not be Trump.

Added note…like the way this was written!

another added note because I ramble. Quote of the day in my book goes to Gary “But it’s a serious misstep to leave out such a critical issue. We have to deal with Citizens United first if we want to accomplish anything else [in the party platform].”

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on July 26, 2016  10:32am

Too much talk about CFR at this point would just come across as sore loser-ism, at a moment when it is time to be gracious.

Obviously the corporate, DC insider wing of the Democratic Party won the nomination, but the Sanders wing has plenty to be proud of, and as they say on the streets, “this sh*t ain’t over!”

That being said, I’m looking forward to America’s first female President!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 26, 2016  10:42am

This is nothing new.Have we all forgot that this was done in 1968.

Protests at Democratic National Convention in Chicago

Vote Jill Stein

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 26, 2016  10:45am

This is why I left the crooked two Party system years ago.

A convicted felon speaking on crime. Have the DNC lost their minds? Wow another slick one.

Ganim to speak at Democratic Convention in Philly

Ganim, who will speak Wednesday morning at the convention, has been touting a reduction in crime under his new acting police chief, Armando “A.J.” Perez, and said strides in public safety will be the focus of a U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Philadelphia over the next few days.

Vote Jill stein.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on July 26, 2016  12:25pm

Ah, yes, the Green Party. The party of alternative medicine and other hokey nonsense.

I thought Sanders did a great job trying to help his supporters rationalize a Clinton vote in November. It’s important that people understand Progressivism in general is helped by a Democratic President, and a President Trump would be absolutely the worst thing that anybody wants—especially Sanders.

Whether people eventually hold their nose and vote Clinton, we’ll have to wait and see.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 26, 2016  5:21pm

posted by: Josh Levinson on July 26, 2016 12:25pm

Ah, yes, the Green Party. The party of alternative medicine and other hokey nonsense.

And Ah Yes The donkey and the elephant symbols of the two dominant political parties are tied at the hip.Both Democrats and Republicans perpetuate the corrupt, dishonest and elitist plutocracy that preferentially serves the interests of the Upper Class and a multitude of special interests.The Republicans do the bank job The Democrats drive the getaway car.

Vote Jill Stein.