Democrats are hoping that any lingering rifts in the party can be healed by a Democratic convention united in opposition to Donald Trump.
Days before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia is set to kick off, party leaders are promising a departure from Trump’s dark version of an America in decline.
In a call on Wednesday, Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that the Democratic convention in Philadelphia would attempt to strike a positive tone, and would be “unrecognizable” from its Republican counterpart.
“Republicans should be ashamed that they’re spending this entire week lying from a stage where the American people should expect better than what is being viewed from that podium by their speakers,” Schultz said.
“The lies, the vitriol, the hatred. We are so much better than this.”
But while Trump’s anti-Clinton convention theme dismayed many top Democrats, when Sen. Bernie Sanders takes the stage on Monday, he’ll still have a long way to go to unite the party.
Some Sanders supporters remain sceptical of Clinton’s ties to the financial industry as well as her foreign-policy legacy, particularly her support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Some liberal activists have been unsettled by endorsements from high-profile members of the right-leaning foreign-policy establishment.
The tensions have only escalated over the past several days, after damaging internal Democratic National Committee emails published by Wikileaks appeared to show the party’s hostility toward Sanders’ candidacy. Among other things, top Democratic officials were shown to have scoffed at Sanders supporters and even at one point questioned Sanders’ religious beliefs.
“Well, I think it’s outrageous, but it is not a great shock to me,” Sanders told CNN on Sunday. “I think, as I said, it’s what we talked about six months ago. I mean, there’s no question to my mind and I think no question to any objective observer’s mind that the DNC was supporting Hillary Clinton, was in opposition to our campaign. So I’m not quite shocked by this.”
DNC Chair Rep. Schultz, whom Sanders called on to resign immediately, will not appear at or preside over the convention.
The revelations have provided a new source of fury to Sanders’ grassroots supporters, who so far haven’t been ready to let go of his candidacy — even if top Democratic leaders are.
CNN political commentator and columnist Sally Kohn said that since endorsing Clinton following the California primary, pushback from Sanders supporters has been frustrating.
“There are some trolls who, by the way, didn’t like any time I said anything critical of Bernie,” Kohn said. “They now think I’m a traitor. In fact I was never really a Bernie supporter. I was a plant, which, let’s be honest, sucks. I’ll put my progressive cred up any time. I’ve earned it.”
Kohn qualified that she doesn’t assume that, “the people who chime in most vociferously often are representative of most progressives, most liberals, most Democrats.”
Nomiki Konst, host of SiriusXM’s “The Filter,” and one of Sanders’ most high-profile surrogates on Fox News, said that while she hasn’t endorsed Clinton, some Sanders supporters on Twitter had been alienated by the radio host’s rationale: that compromising and pushing Clinton is far easier than attempting to work with Trump.
“I’ve gotten a lot of pushback on twitter who said they’d unfollow me. They assume that I’m endorsing Hillary, and I never said that,” Konst said. “I’ve said over and over that [Clinton] needs to earn my support as a surrogate. I haven’t received a phone call from Hillary or her team. I’ve worked for the Democratic Party. I know a lot of these people.”
She added: “It is concerning to me that people are turning on [Sanders], but more importantly that they’re trying to vote in the Green Party. The bottom line is in swing states right now — it is so tight between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that a vote for Jill Stein would be destructive.”
“I’m not saying that Hillary is perfect and she’s the candidate that’s going to lead us towards peace. But she’s not a fascist.”
While groups like MoveOn.org have switched camps to Sanders, others are taking time to fall in behind the former secretary of state, saying that they do not want to be taken for granted.
Friends of the Earth Action — a prominent environmental group that still touts its support for Sanders in a large photo at the top of its website — hasn’t endorsed Clinton.
“We will at some point consider endorsing Secretary Clinton, but we’re not there yet,” President Erich Pica told Business Insider recently.
The backlash online doesn’t appear to be translating into real support in the polls.
In a recent Washington Post/ABC poll released in June, just 8% of the senator’s former supporters in the Democratic primaries reported that they would support Trump over Clinton in the general election. In May, 20% of Sanders supporters responded they would back Trump over Clinton in a hypothetical general election match-up.
While Sanders’ attempt to boost other progressive primary candidates has had mixed results, former surrogates like Konst and Josh Foxx, the director of the documentary film “Gasland,” are trying to keep the grassroots movement Sanders rallied from becoming complacent.
Sanders activists are pushing next week to during rules-committee meetings to include a provision that would eliminate superdelegates, high-profile Democratic lawmakers and party officials who play a small role in selecting the presidential nominee. Konst told Business Insider that the activists will be releasing videos from supporters of both Sanders and Clinton calling for the end of superdelegates, many of whom Sanders criticised for backing Clinton before the primary process began in earnest.
Though the threat of a fight on the convention floor from Sanders supporters seems nullified, activists are still planning to raise many of the issues at the convention.
Some activists, like actress Shailene Woodley, are also organising caravans to convention next week, where they are planning protests aimed at raising awareness of “political and corporate corruption.”
For their part, party leaders are publicly worried about Sanders holdouts.
Schultz, the DNC chair, told Business Insider that she wasn’t concerned at all about Democratic voters being alienated by support from hawks, saying that Clinton had support and endorsements “from across the political spectrum of politics, and particularly of our party.”
“We have a very, very comprehensive amount of support from our progressive wing,” Schultz said. “Hillary Clinton herself is a proud progressive, and we certainly welcome the support of any American who believes, like we do, that Hillary Clinton as president of the United States will not only make sure that America is safer, but that we can continue to help Americans reach the middle class.”
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