Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was booed this morning when he urged his supporters to back Hillary Clinton in November — and the Democratic National Convention launched amid chaos. That was many hours ago.
The runner-up in the Dem primaries took the stage tonight to a hero’s welcome of applause, chants and obvious affection. The crowd cheered for nearly two minutes before letting him speak. And when he did, it was a much-needed message of party unity. But not until 15 minutes in — and not before he made sure that the issues that defined his successful and surprising campaign were addressed.
Sanders closed out Day 1 of the 2016 Democratic National Convention with a speech that began, “It is an honor to be here tonight.” (In primetime, no less — which is what the party disruptor insisted upon.) He thanked lead-in speakers Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama and then the “hundreds of thousands of Americans who actively participated in our campaign” and individual contributors and the “13 million Americans who voted for the political revolution.” Then he noted the “1,846 pledged delegates here tonight,” adding, “I look forward to your votes during the roll call tomorrow night.”
That brought to mind the crowd shot of Sanders backers wearing masking tape over their mouths with the word “Silenced” written on it.
He then directly addressed that base — a group he knows was disappointed. “I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am,” Sanders said.
With that he launched into familiar elements from his stump speech, hitting the “rigged economy,” climate change, poverty, health care, renewable energy, Citizens United, immigration reform, a “broken criminal justice system,” the country’s “the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality,” intolerance and “the movement toward oligarchy that we are seeing in this country.” He also shredded the Republican platform in general and GOP nominee Donald Trump in particular.
“This election is about the 40-year decline of our middle class,” Sanders said. “The reality that 47 million men, women and children today live in poverty. It is about understanding that if we do not transform our economy, our younger generation will likely have a lower standard of living than their parents. This election is about ending the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in America today. It is not moral, it is not acceptable and it is not sustainable that the top one-tenth of one percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.”
He thanked President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for “pulling us out of that terrible recession” but added, “I believe much more needs to be done.”
There was a murmur in the hall as Sanders said: “We need leadership in this country which brings our people together and makes us stronger, not leadership that seeks to divide us up. Based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next President of the United States.”
There it was. It drew a big cheer — but maybe, just maybe, not as loud as the party might have hoped.
The man who led the party’s leftward swing in the past year-plus noted that he differs with Clinton on “many issues” but said, “I’m happy to tell you that at the Democratic platform committee, there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns, and we produced by far the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”
The other side was watching too:
But Team Bernie went for the last word: