Clin­ton leaves party’s lib­eral wing high and dry

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank

— As protests go, this one was a doo­bie.

Democrats gath­er­ing here to nom­i­nate Hil­lary Clin­ton for the pres­i­dency had some com­pany: hun­dreds of Bernie Sanders sup­port­ers march­ing through town, es­corted by a 50- foot di­ri­gi­ble in the form of a reefer.

“Berned by the DNC” was the, er, joint dec­la­ra­tion printed on the bal­loon’s side.

The Bernie back­ers have rea­son to be fum­ing. Their man lost a hard-fought race. But on Mon­day, they let the fire en­gulf them — and not even Sanders him­self could es­cape the blaze.

“We have got to elect Hil­lar y Clin­ton and Tim Kaine,” Sanders told his del­e­gates Mon­day af­ter­noon.

In­cred­i­bly, they be­gan to boo and jeer. The move­ment leader, no longer con­trol­ling his fol­low­ers, raised his hand for quiet.

“Brothers and sis­ters!” he urged. “This is the real world that we live in. Trump is a bully and a dem­a­gogue.”

The shouts and jeers con­tin­ued, fol­lowed by a chant of “We want Bernie!”

It was just the open­ing to the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion that Don­ald Trump would have wanted. And the Bernie Bros — and a few sis­ters — weren’t done. They took their hooli­gan­ism to the con­ven­tion floor at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter. They booed Sen. Jeanne Sha­heen of New Hamp­shire when she men­tioned Clin­ton. They did the same to AFLCIO chief Richard Trumka and Adri­ano Es­pail­lat, who hopes to be the first for­mer un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant to win a seat in Congress.

They booed Ben Jeal­ous, for­mer NAACP head and a Sanders sup­porter, when he said it was time to elect Clin­ton. They booed Rep. Mar­cia Fudge of Ohio when she re­minded them that “we are all Democrats,” just as they had booed House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi ear­lier in the day. They even booed when the Rev. Cyn­thia Hale, giv­ing the open­ing bene­dic­tion, men­tioned Clin­ton’s name.

For a time, they booed most ev­ery men­tion of Clin­ton’s name. They chanted “Bernie! Bernie!” and even reprised the Repub­li­cans’ cheer: “Lock her up!” Out­side, they blocked the main road to the con­ven­tion site and blocked buses car­ry­ing del­e­gates — re­lent­ing only when thun­der­storms and flood­ing washed them out.

That the Sanders sup­port­ers were frus­trated is un­der­stand­able. Clin­ton and the Demo­cratic Party have given the pro­gres­sive wing of the party short shrift in fa­vor of an ap­peal to the po­lit­i­cal cen­ter.

Sanders and his sup­port­ers were


tucked into Mon­day night’s pro­gram­ming, where they shared billing with first lady Michelle Obama and Mas­sachusetts Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren. The stag­ing sent a clear mes­sage: The Sanders peo­ple would have their say — and then the con­ven­tion, and the cam­paign, would move on.

Of more con­se­quence, Clin­ton, af­ter se­cur­ing Sanders’ en­dorse­ment, chose as her run­ning mate Vir­ginian Tim Kaine, who has a cen­trist rep­u­ta­tion and has been a free- trader.

Then there was the leak of Demo­cratic National Com­mit­tee emails, which proved what Sanders had long al­leged: The party was work­ing to help Clin­ton de­feat him. Com­mit­tee Chairman Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz was ousted af­ter the email rev­e­la­tions, but Clin­ton promptly named her an “hon­orary chair” of her cam­paign.

From a strate­gic per­spec­tive, this is prob­a­bly a mis­take. Clin­ton’s playing down of the pro­gres­sives in Philadelphia comes from a be­lief that she can do bet­ter among the non- col­lege- ed­u­cated whites who have been the core of Trump’s sup­port. But her deficit among non- col­lege- ed­u­cated white voters, about 30 points, isn’t much worse than Pres­i­dent Obama and John Kerry did. Rather than mak­ing over­tures to the shrink­ing ranks of blue- col­lar white voters ( just over 30 per­cent of the electorate, down from half in the 1980s) who aren’t likely to be per­suaded, Clin­ton could have used her vice pres­i­den­tial se­lec­tion and her con­ven­tion to boost en­thu­si­asm among pro­gres­sives.

But no slight by Clin­ton or the DNC jus­ti­fies the dis­play Sanders sup­port­ers put on Mon­day.

Af­ter the ini­tial out­bursts on the floor, Sanders, who would close the night with a gen­er­ous at­tempt at unity, pleaded dur­ing the af­ter­noon with his sup­port­ers by text and email to de­sist. “Our cred­i­bil­ity as a move­ment will be dam­aged,” he cau­tioned, and, “I ask you as a per­sonal cour­tesy to me to not en­gage in any kind of protest on the floor.”

The Sanders hooli­gans backed off — a bit. But when co­me­dian Sarah Sil­ver­man, a Sanders backer, came out to urge sup­port for Clin­ton, there were more boos and chants of “Bernie! Bernie!”

“You’re be­ing ridicu­lous,” Sil­ver­man told them.

Only the sooth­ing tones of Paul Si­mon seemed to calm the hall. The singer’s se­lec­tion for the DNC: “Bridge Over Trou­bled Wa­ter.”

Dana Mil­bank is a syn­di­cated columnist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@ wash­post. com.

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