Philadelphia (US), July 26 (IANS) Amid a sustained revolt by his supporters, Bernie Sanders, the unsuccessful insurgent candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, struggled on Monday night to rally the fractured party to support Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee.
Speaking at the party convention here, Sanders declared: “Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.” With Trump, “the choice is not even close”.
The convention, which is to be the coronation of the Clinton dynasty with Hillary vying for the nation’s top job once held by her husband Bill, was marred by the weekend resignation of the Democratic Party Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, following leaks of party emails that showed the leadership favouring Clinton and undercutting Sanders.
The Democratic Party insists that their computers were hacked by Russians and links Soviet President Vladimir Putin and Trump.
Day-long protests in Philadelphia city by Sanders supporters, the Sanderistas, carried on to the convention floor where they booed speaker after speaker, starting with Christian pastor Cynthia Hall who prayed for Clinton’s victory.
Even Sanders drew scattered boos from his own supporters as he called on them to support her.
The intractable mood of his supporters, a combination of youth and old time radicals, who feel betrayed by the party and assert that the selection process was rigged, was captured by a young Indian American protester who wanted to by identified only by her first name, Viji.
She told IANS that she was not swayed by the party threats that dissidence would result in a Trump victory. “Trump may be a racist, but at least he won the nomination fair and square unlike Hillary who stole the election from Sanders,” said the IT who had travelled from Cleveland.
She criticized Clinton over her economic policies that favoured the rich, her support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and her support for the Iraq war.
Viji said she and other Sanders backers would now vote for Jill Stein, the presidential candidate of the Green Party, which advocates environmental protection and various progressive causes.
The virulence of the Sanderistas matched that of Trump and his people, going to the extent of calling for sending her to prison over her own email scandal which involved keeping top secret information on a private computer while she was Secretary of State in violation of government rules.
However, echoing the hopes of the party leadership, Khayati Joshi, the Co-chair of the New Jersey State Democratic South Asian American Caucus and a delegate to the convention, dismissed the continuing Sanders movement and the party chair’s resignation as a “distractions”.
The professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University told IANS: “Our eyes are on the prize. It is critical that Hillary Clinton is elected.” She added that once the campaigns gained steam, the rifts would heal.
Harpreet Sandhu, who was elected as a Clinton delegate from California, said of the discord in the party: “We are working our way through them.”
In a move to assuage Sanders, he said the state party assigned some of the Clinton delegate slots to Sanders and he was asked to step aside. “As a party we are all together and we are united on issues like immigrants and education,” he added.
President Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, recalled Clinton’s defeat to her husband. “When she didn’t get the nomination eight years ago, she did not get angry or disillusioned,” she said.
Extolling Clinton’s concern for children and what she said was her proven maturity that would keep the nuclear button safe in her care, Michelle Obama called for supporting her.
The party establishment took several steps to mollify the Sanders crowd. They moved up his speech to the last spot of the day and gave the keynote slot to Elizabeth Warren, a leader of the party’s leftwing whose views are close to Sanders.
In a speech that sounded like an echo of the Left in India, the Massachusetts senator, Warren, railed against globalisation, the poor getting poorer, the income divide, big businesses benefiting from government, tax cuts for the rich and a system rigged against the voiceless masses.
In a charm offensive towards the petulant Sanderistas, every speaker with a political message paid homage to Sanders for awakening the party to several progressive issues. The convention organisers ever distributed Sanders placards to all delegates to cheer him.
In an unexpectedly close primary battle, Clinton received 15.8 million to Sanders 12 million making a strong showing. Sanders backers feel that the primary elections were rigged with the party leadership backing Clinton as revealed in the leaked emails.
Sanders energised young voters and shook many out of their apathy with his anti-establishment rhetoric that painted Clinton as beholden to Wall Street and the leadership to rich donors. Getting the support of his sizeable following would be crucial for Clinton’s victory in a close contest.
Except when politics took centre stage, the Convention had the touches of a Bollywood mela. There were music performances by Paul Simon, Boyz II Men and singer Demi Lovatto. Some delegates danced to the music. Speakers were introduced with music and light effects.
(Arul Louis can be reached at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia at [email protected])