Democrats ‘feel the Bern’ as Sanders backs Hillary on day 1 of convention

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Updated: Jul 26, 2016 13:15 IST
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Monday. (AFP)

US first lady Michelle Obama was classy, inspirational and moving. Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren was spunky as always and others were effective, right on the coin.

But it was Bernie Sanders who delivered on the first day of the Democratic convention on Monday.

He gave Hillary Clinton his endorsement, his blessings and, hopefully for the Clinton campaign, his supporters, ending talk of him using the Democratic convention to resurrect his campaign.

“It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues,” Sanders said, addressing his supporters, some of whom had tears in their eyes and looked despondent. He assured them Clinton was his candidate now, who agreed — he said repeatedly - with his, and their, ideas and would be a trusted surrogate of the revolution they had started.

“What we have done together is unprecedented, but our fight is not done,” the senator from Vermont, who has made the word “revolution” trendy, in a typically American way, said.

Two supporters of Bernie Sanders hug at the end of his speech (Reuters)

Sanders endorsed Clinton a while ago, but his supporters hadn’t, not up until now at least and dragged that battle to the floor of the convention, hoping to kick some life into it.

They chanted “Bernie, Bernie” as they had at his rallies, wore T-shirts blithely warning, “Feel the Bern”, and booed the speaker yelling, “She stole the nomination”.

Refusing to accept his exit, some of them still believe Sanders can, and will, get the nomination in the call of rolls — a count of delegates on the floor of the convention — on Tuesday.

Robin Savage, a Montana woman, who ducked into a church offering protestors rest and respite downtown, told this reporter already inside, that she believed something was afoot.

Read | Michelle, Sanders make a pitch for Hillary as Democrats struggle for unity

“There is going to be a contested convention and Bernie will get the nomination which he deserves,” she said tucking back a clutch of sweat-drenched hair under her hat.

But hasn’t he already conceded, and asked his supporters to support and vote for Clinton? “Oh, we have been told,” Savage said, dropping her voice, “to ignore him and what he is saying.” Seriously? “Yes,” she said, “Bernie (to his supporters, Sanders is always Bernie and Clinton is always Hillary) is saying things he has to but that’s not how things will turn out.”

Sanders leaves the stage after his address at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia (Reuters)

Their obstinacy, however, began to irritate Democratic party leaders and even Sanders surrogates, who were urging them to take the blow, let off some steam and move on. Sarah Silverman, a comedian who backed Sanders, had some tough words for her erstwhile fellow Bernie backers — “To Bernie or bust people (I say) … you are being ridiculous.”

Perhaps they were. And they stared back, sullenly. The catcalls and boos quietened down during Michelle Obama’s electrifying speech — she has a temper, they also remembered — that drove many to tears among the delegates.

Senator Warren, who followed, started with a nod, and another, and yet another, to Sanders, as a leading surrogate, but failed to enthuse the audience, who stayed surprisingly quiet. They were just being impatient, it seemed.

They had travelled from all over the country to see if their man could make a last stand, trying to get what he deserved and, according to a recent Wikileaks dump of internal Democratic Party emails, what he was unfairly robbed off. “The Democratic party was not interested in democracy,” Kathy Roemer, a delegate from California, said. “There is justifiable outrage and absolute commitment from Bernie supporters.”

But did they expect Sanders to do keep fighting for his nomination? Some agreed, but a lot of others disagreed, acknowledging it was time to move on.

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