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Sanders confronts skeptical delegates with Clinton support

Bernie Sanders’ speech at the Democratic National Convention
Bernie Sanders’ speech at the Democratic National Convention

PHILADELPHIA — Senator Bernie Sanders made a case for his one-time rival Hillary Clinton in an impassioned speech Monday night, confronting a crowd of thousands of delegates who were deeply skeptical of the new Democratic standard-bearer.

As the Vermont senator took the stage, thousands held up blue signs that read “Bernie.” Chants of “Ber-nie, Bern-ie, Bern-ie” broke out.

Sanders urged his supporters to focus on the stakes of the presidential election, saying that the choice in November is about reducing income inequality, improving the lives of working people, and expanding opportunities for minorities.

“By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that — based on her ideas and her leadership — Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States,” Sanders said. “The choice is not even close.”


In her own prime-time speech, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts spent much of her time focused on Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump knows that the American people are angry — a fact so obvious he can see it from the top of Trump Tower,” Warren said. “So now he’s insisting that he — and he alone — can fix the rigged system.”

She added: “Well, I’ve got news for Donald Trump. The American people are not falling for it! We’ve seen this ugliness before, and we’re not going to be Donald Trump’s hate-filled America — not now, not ever.”

She also urged the party to come together. “When we turn on each other, we can’t unite to fight back against a rigged system,” Warren said.

The night’s big event, though, was Sanders’ speech — a moment made all the more dramatic because of disclosures that officials in the Democratic National Committee had sought to undermine him during the primaries.

When he took to the stage, he seemed to soak up the moment and let the crowd of people that watched the arc of his long-shot campaign have one last emotional moment.


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

Though Sanders came up short, he declared that he wouldn’t exit the political arena. “We have begun a political revolution to transform America,” Sanders said. “Election days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us . . . that struggle continues. And I look forward to being part of that struggle with you.”

The first night of the convention was staged by the Democrats as a way to try to draw in the Sanders and Warren wing of the party, which is crucial to the Clinton effort.

But the liberals who had supported Sanders weren’t ready yet to choke down that sentiment — and with it, the call for unity — for much of the day. When Clinton’s name was mentioned, particularly in the early hours, hundreds of delegates booed.

In downtown Philadelphia his supporters handed out buttons with the motto “Flip-A-Delegate.” The idea: convert Clinton backers into Sanders supporters, but a major sticking point for many was they felt no clear reason to support Clinton other than fear of Trump.

Clinton was not in the convention hall, but her top aide, Huma Abedin, watched Sanders from the floor, showing no emotion as he spoke. She occasionally checked her phone, folded and unfolded her arms and hugged friends.


Michelle Obama gave a powerful address to the crowd, calling out Trump in her remarks, saying that ‘‘when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, we don’t stoop to their level.’’

Some of the most effective arguments with the crowd came with humor. Al Franken, a Minnesota senator and former “Saturday Night Live” comedian, gave what amounted to a political stand-up routine about Trump.

“We might be misunderestimating Trump,” said Franken. “Sure he scammed a lot of people. But did you know that the Trump University School of ripping people off is ranked second in the nation? Just behind Bernie Madoff University.”

He was later joined on the stage by Sarah Silverman, a comedian and celebrity Sanders supporter. She reiterated her affection for Sanders — and then gave a full throated endorsement of Clinton.

“Come on,” Silverman said. “She’s like the only person ever to be overqualified for president. I will vote for Hillary with gusto.”

That brought the crowd to their feet. But then Silverman, who isn’t a practiced political activist, pushed it some more. “Can I just say to the ‘Bernie or bust’ people: You’re being ridiculous.”

Chants of Ber-nie, Ber-nie erupted on the floor.

“It’s a little tough to pivot to Hillary,” said Mykie Reidy, a delegate from the critical swing state of Pennsylvania. “It is a trust problem.”


Even the news that Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz would have no role in the opening day of the convention seemed to embolden Sanders delegates who had long been calling on her to resign. Leaked e-mails had linked her to efforts to favor Clinton over Sanders during the primaries.

Because of the lingering support for Sanders, and the uproar over Wasserman Schultz, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell acknowledged that the Democrats’ convention was getting off to a bad start.

“I’m a big fan of Debbie Wasserman Schultz but I wish that she had stepped down immediately and she wasn’t continuing to be associated with the Clinton campaign, concentrate on her own reelection,” he said in an interview before Monday night’s gavel dropped.

Shortly after the convention began, the Democratic National Committee continued to try to make amends for revelations found in leaked e-mails that their staff was rooting for Clinton during the lengthy primary process.

“On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over e-mail,” according to the statement.

Wasserman Schultz scrapped her plans to take the stage at the convention Monday morning after a revolt by members of her Florida delegation.

They heckled and booed her repeatedly as she tried to speak at a brunch.

“All right everybody now settle down,” she said to the crowd, with some holding up printed signs that simply read: “E-mails.”


She remained in Philadelphia, though it was unclear what role, if any, she would play in the convention for the rest of the week.

That news wasn’t enough to assuage the Sanders delegates who loudly booed the first few times Clinton’s name was mentioned in the opening moments of the convention.

Their passionate pro-Sanders chants interrupted one speaker so many times that she departed from the prepared remarks in the Teleprompter.

“I am going to be respectful of you and I want you to be respectful toward me,” said Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio, the convention chairwoman.

That prompted a written message from Sanders: “I would ask you as a personal courtesy to me not to engage in any kind of protest or demonstration on the convention floor.”

Paul Pinsky, a Sanders delegate from Maryland, said he felt the message went a long way in calming Sanders supporters on the convention floor.

It was a much different message than Sanders offered earlier in the day when he addressed his delegates behind closed doors at the Philadelphia Convention Center, miles away from the Wells Fargo Center where the convention was held.

“We have got to defeat Donald Trump!” he yelled to a roomful of cheers. “We have got to elect Hillary Clinton!”

Boos erupted. One person hollered “No Bernie.” Others imported the Republican chant from last week’s convention, yelling “Lock her up!”

Sanders struggled to regain control of the room.

“Brothers and sisters! Brothers and sisters!” he said, according to a recording that was reviewed by the Globe. “This is the real world that we live in,” Sanders argued, making the pitch that Democrats must unite to defeat Trump.

Annie Linksey can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @annielinskey. Victoria McGrane can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.