The Democratic National Convention couldn’t have kicked off to a better start for Republicans.
After the Republicans just wrapped up an uneven convention that nonetheless appeared to boost Donald Trump into the lead, Democrats began with yet another email scandal, the dumping of their party chairman and boos for the second-place finisher from his own folks when he endorsed the first-place candidate.
It made for Christmas in July for conservatives.
As the night went on, the Clinton people yelled lower and the Bernie Sanders loyalists quieted, a bit.
Still, look at some of the headlines on the hard-right Daily Caller: “DNC Leaks: Proof Democrats Manipulate Voters With Religion, Race,” “Wasserman Schultz Booed At Florida Rally Over DNC Email Scandal” and “Leaked DNC Documents Reveal SHOCKING Levels Of Party Corruption.” At Republican Red State: “Bernie Sanders Sells Out to Hillary, and Receives Deafening Boos From the Crowd For It,” “HILARIOUS: Hillary Claims There is an Anti-Clinton Media Bias” and ousted DNC chair “Debbie Wasserman Schultz Can’t Get On a Stage Without Being Booed Off It.”
Sure, the right would find disaster in Philadelphia no matter what.
But consider the view from the left. At Slate: “Bernie Is Done Trying to Usurp the Democratic Establishment, but His Supporters Are Not” (note to Slate editors, either capitalize every word in a headline or don’t, but this random stuff …). At Talking Points Memo: “Sanders Supporters Threaten To Steal Show From Clinton.” At Salon: “Storm clouds over Philly: Does the DNC’s unsettled mood spell doom or democracy?”
The kick-off came as some numbers guys still see the election as Clinton’s to lose, even as the polls seem to put Trump in the lead after his convention. (Part of the calculation here is that Clinton may see her own post-convention bump, and the country’s demographics and the Electoral College work in the Democrats’ favor.)
Philadelphia seemed to have kumbaya potential for the Democrats. (It still might, a first day does not a convention make.)
Instead, it launched with the Wikileaking of Democratic National Committee emails that fed deeply held suspicions by those feeling the Bern that party HQ had its thumb on the scale for Hillary.
Clinton’s people wanted to quickly turn the conversation to why the Russians — Moscow is Suspect No. 1 of who likely hacked the DNC — would spill these beans other than to help Trump. Republicans just as quickly speculated on the danger that would come had the Russians tapped into the emails Clinton kept on her private server as secretary of state. Point to the GOP.
By the time the convention officially kicked off, Wasserman Schultz was gone and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake started DemFest. At first, she forgot to bang that gavel. Then she did it with style.
Then the party banked on star power to bring out the love. It turned to First Lady Michelle Obama, whose words from eight years ago got a reprise a week earlier; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the darling of of the party’s left flank and the bane of Wall Street: and Bernie Sanders, who’d annoyed his own devotees earlier in the day in backing Clinton.
Throughout the night, party unity seemed to ebb and flow. One speaker after the next sang Clinton’s praises. Comic Sarah Silverman and comic-turned-senator Al Franken appeared together at one point for a little bit of shtick. Franken said he’d always been with Clinton, Silverman said she’d been behind Sanders but was now booking passages on S.S. Hillary.
“For the last year, I’ve been feeling the Bern,” Silverman said. “Relax, I’ve put some cream on it.” Then when she talked about her new-found enthusiasm for Clinton, Sanders supporters began chanting for their guy, which prompted the Clinton crowd trying to out-chant them.
Silverman seemed frustrated: “Can I just say to the Bernie-or-bust people, you’re being ridiculous.”
Michelle Obama seemed to bridge the troubled waters the way Silverman, Franken or a Garfunkel-less Paul Simon could not. Her’s was the strongest speech of the night.
Without mentioning the Bernie bros on the floor disrupting other speakers or Donald Trump, she threw zingers their way. (Per the Sanders-to-the-end crowd: “When [Clinton] lost the nomination eight years ago, she didn’t get angry or disillusioned.” Per Trump: “The issues a president faces cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.”)
She played the role of America’s mom and talked about the influence of the presidency on the country’s children.
Then came Warren bashing CEO salaries and arguing that Washington isn’t stuck in gridlock when it comes to tax breaks for fat cats.
“The system is rigged,” she said.
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson was perched at his Twitter account ready to pounce with the message that maybe something more radical should be done than electing yet another Democrat. (Warren’s larger message was that she saw Trump as a scam artist ready to pounce on the little guy.)
Finally, Sanders took the stage after the playing of his signature Simon and Garfunkel campaign ad.
When the Larry David look-alike took the stage, his supporters made a point of extended applause.
He delivered much the speech he’s been giving for the past year, adding his endorsement of Clinton: middle class losing at the expense of the 1 percent.
Suspension built as he went through the old material. How enthusiastically would he call on people to vote for Clinton, and how would his supporters in the hall react? (Mostly huzzahs, some boos and chants of “sell out.”)
His endorsement seemed unequivocal, weaving her name into the economic justice issues — the other side would say: give me free stuff — that defined his campaign.
Then he quickly turned to blast Trump, and blast some more. In the end, it was a full-on endorsement. No caveats.
No matter. Trump was watching and urging disaffected Sanders voters his way.