A glass ceiling is shattering at the Democratic National Convention as Hillary Clinton ascends to the presidential nomination with Tuesday’s roll call of the states, making her the first woman to lead a major party into a White House race.
But as history is being made, hostility is being heard, too. Rhetorically, at least, die-hard Bernie Sanders’ supporters also are breaking some glass, loudly protesting his treatment by the party and still cold to Clinton even as Sanders appeals for Democrats to unify and defeat Republican Donald Trump, “a bully and a demagogue.”
What was expected to be a tightly orchestrated convention, run with all the professionalism and experience that were lacking at Trump’s often-chaotic affair in Ohio, instead showed its rough edges in the early going, starting with chants of “Bernie” during the opening invocation and boos at numerous mentions of Clinton’s name.
First lady Michelle Obama gave a heartfelt endorsement of the candidate who engaged her husband in a fierce struggle for the nomination in 2008. “I trust Hillary to lead this country,” she said in a speech that provided a parent’s-eye view of the White House and its power.
Liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts, and Sanders himself also gave the party something to cheer about Monday night.
While Mrs. Obama has often avoided overt politics, her frustration with Trump’s rise was evident. Without naming him, she warned that the White House couldn’t be in the hands of someone with “a thin skin or a tendency to lash out” or someone who tells voters the country can be great again. “This right now, is the greatest country on earth,” she said.
Sanders took the stage to a sustained roar and shouts of “We love you, Bernie.” Some of his supporters were in tears.
While asserting “our revolution continues,” the Vermont senator implored his restive followers to get behind Clinton. On issues of poverty, immigration, environmental protection and more, he said, Clinton’s election counts. “If you don’t believe that this election is important,” he said, “take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate.”
Democrats made a pronounced effort to showcase their diversity, salting the lineup from the stage with black, Hispanic, gay and disabled speakers in an obvious counterpoint to Trump and the various groups he has upset with his remarks.
The convention opened in a dustup over leaked emails showing the party’s pro-Clinton, anti-Sanders slant during the primaries, when it was supposed to be neutral. In the uproar, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida went swiftly into exile, first giving up her position, then the convention’s opening-day gavel after being roundly booed by Sanders partisans at a meeting of her home-state delegation.
Sanders delegate Gian Carlo Espinosa, 29, of Key West, Florida, said he would not abandon protests, as Sanders urged. “Why else are we here?” he asked. “The people that we’re representing are displeasured with the party. We have to get that across somehow.” This, despite Sanders telling his backers in an email and text message: “Our credibility as a movement will be damaged by booing, turning of backs, walking out or other similar displays.”
In roasting heat, spirited protests unfolded outside, another echo of the Republican convention in Cleveland. Several hundred Sanders backers marched down Philadelphia streets, with signs saying “Never Hillary.” One said, “Just go to jail, Hillary,” a takeoff on cries at the Republican convention to “lock her up.”
Nevertheless, Clinton was firmly on track to write the next chapter of a story that left off in 2008, when she conceded the Democratic presidential race to Barack Obama in a speech that lamented “we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time,” but added proudly, “it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” a tally of her primary votes.
The roll call, when each state announces its delegate totals from the primary season, will affirm a nomination Clinton locked up weeks ago. One question of the day was whether Sanders would press for a count by all the states, as his delegates want, or interrupt the process to ask that her nomination be approved by acclamation. That’s what Clinton did on Obama’s behalf in 2008 to indicate their rivalry was truly over.
Clinton promised an uplifting counterpoint to Trump’s dark portrayal of the state of the nation, but the fallout from some 19,000 leaked Democratic National Committee emails threatened to complicate those plans.
Michael Buratowski, an analyst with the cybersecurity firm the Democrats employed, said he found evidence of Russian involvement, such as the use of a Russian-language keyboard and time-offs that coincided with Russian business hours in what he described as an attack too sophisticated to be the work of freelance hackers. The hackers took at least a year’s worth of detailed chats, emails and research on Trump, according to a person knowledgeable of the breach who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
As the convention began, the DNC released a statement apologizing to Sanders and his supporters “for the inexcusable remarks made over email.”
The statement was signed by DNC leaders, though Wasserman Schultz’s name was notably absent.
Woodward reported from Washington.
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