ANALYSIS: Democrats' 'Revolution' Flirts With Insurrection

ByABC News
July 25, 2016, 11:47 PM

—PHILADELPHIA -- “We are stronger together,” the campaign slogan says. But the voices of the convention say there’s still strong interest in staying apart.

A raucous Democratic National Convention opened Monday night under conditions previously found only in paperback political thrillers.

    The chairwoman of the Democratic Party was almost booed away entirely. The city was on a sweltering, soaked and locked-down edge. A massive email hack of the Democratic National Committee was being blamed on the Russians.

    A night that was intended to showcase Democratic unity instead exposed the opposite. Mere mentions of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine drew jeers and worse from delegates early on.

    Tellingly, the closing line of Bernie Sanders’ much-anticipated speech, in which he said Clinton “would make an outstanding president,” was met with an odd mix of cheers, boos and chants.

    After a tense first day of the convention, it was left to a trio of Democratic superstars — none of whom have a particular history of fondness for the soon-to-be nominee — to make pleas for party unity.

    “Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments,” Michelle Obama said, in a rousing speech that brought the room together. “We are always stronger together … And that’s why in this election, I’m with her.”

    “People get it. The system is rigged,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, drawing an unexpected burst of applause for borrowing a Bernie Sanders line. (A few scattered voices interrupted her at one point, yelling “We trusted you,” while others chanted “Goldman Sachs.”)

    “When we turn on each other, we can’t unite to fight back against a rigged system,” Warren continued.

    The night, if not the convention hall, belonged to Sanders. He turned his stump speech into an argument for electing Clinton, emphasizing areas of agreement while speaking directly to his followers who wanted a different outcome.

    “I understand that many people here in this convention hall and around the country are disappointed about the final results of the nominating process. I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am,” Sanders said.

    He declared, “Our revolution continues.” He couldn’t have been surprised to get chants of “Bernie” and “Feel the Bern” when he declared, “This election is about which candidate understands the real problems facing this country and has offered real solutions.”

    Sanders continued, “Any objective observer will conclude that, based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.”

    But Sanders is not an objective observer, and the delegates who went to Philadelphia on his behalf aren’t either.

    His political “revolution” lasted long beyond the point that he could have won the nomination. He long promised a “contested convention,” and technically, he hasn’t even ended his campaign for president.

    In play on the first day of the convention were the forces with which the Democratic Party has grappled for the last year, even the last generation. The Clintons have been bright lights in national politics for a quarter century, but they’ve sparked dark passions like few political figures of any era.

    Progressives’ frustrations found their unlikely voice in Sanders, a 70-something who was never affiliated with the Democratic Party until he sought the presidential nomination. It was Sanders who appealed to a younger generation of Democrats for whom the Clintons are political has-beens or worse.

    On Monday night, Sen. Cory Booker teamed with Warren and Sanders to build a bridge from liberal dreams to Clinton realities. Obama was the biggest star, in a more political speech than she normally gives.

    “When they go low, we go high,” she declared.

    The first night allowed Democrats to acknowledge progressive leaders and rally behind an extremely popular first lady. Sanders supporters were given ample opportunity to blow off steam, and the disappearing act of now-outgoing party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz reduced the number of angry outbursts.

    But the convention also exposed political forces that nobody — not even Obama or Sanders or Warren — can truly control. It’s easier to start revolutions than finish them.

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