The night was supposed to be a metaphoric rolled out red carpet for Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
But Monday night, day one of the Democratic National Convention, felt more like a civil battleground. With seemingly half the crowd rooting for Bernie Sanders, it was hard to tell who was the favorite amongst the nation’s Democrats as they rallied under the dome of the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.
Unlike the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which boasted celebrities Scott Baio from “Happy Days,” underwear model Antonio Sabato Jr. and Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty,” the DNC upped the ante by opening with Boyz II Men performing a rendition of “Motownphilly” and 14-year old Bobby Hill singing the National Anthem. (Hill, a longtime member of the Keystone State Boychoir, wowed the nation when he sang a soprano version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu” for Pope Francis when His Holiness visited Philadelphia last September.)
Comedians Sarah Silverman and Al Franken (the latter, let’s not forget, is also a U.S. Senator from Minnesota) enjoyed a playful banter regarding Hillary and Sanders. Silverman has long been an outspoken Bernie supporter, while Franken has firmly put his push behind Hillary. What they both agreed to have in common? Their disdain for Trump.
“First, a little about my qualifications,” said Franken. “I got my doctorate in megalomaniac studies from Trump University. Sure, he’s scammed a lot of people, but did you know that Trump University School of Ripping People Off is ranked second in the nation? Right behind Bernie Madoff University.”
“Not only did Bernie wake us up, but he made us understand what is possible and what we deserve,” said Silverman. “My shrink says, ‘We don’t get what we want, we get what we think we deserve,’ and I’m pretty sure all of America’s citizens deserve quality health care and quality education, and not just for the elite. Hillary is our Democratic nominee and I will proudly vote for Hillary. I will vote for Hillary with gusto.”
To this statement, Silverman was widely booed by her faithful fellow Sanders followers who likely viewed her as a traitor for switching gears on the day of the onset of the convention. Franken tried to buffer the blows by using this as a segue to introduce singer-songwriter Paul Simon, who then sang, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
It’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am.
Hillary also received support from actress Eva Longoria, founder of The Eva Longoria Foundation, which works to helps Latin Americans get better access to career training, mentorship, education and entrepreneurship, and Demi Lovato, who sang her hit single “Confident” before touting Hillary as “a presidential candidate that ensures [people with mental illness] get the care they need to live fulfilling lives. “That candidate is Hillary Clinton. Let’s make her the next President of the United States of America,” she said.
Democrats faced a tough challenge Monday as Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down amid an e-mail scandal she had shown blatant favoritism inside the Democratic National Committee for Clinton and sabotaged Sanders’ campaign in the process. Brian Ertz, a rules committee member from Boise, Idaho, called the entire convention a “farse,” and said what happened to Sanders was, “a boot to the teeth.”
“I think it’s beautiful that they’re booing the hell out of [Clinton],” he said. “Because I think this whole thing is a spectacle to demonstrate unity for the TV screens, and I think if the only political agency that the Bernie Sanders supporters have is to express their disunity—even if it is just about spectacle—then let’s show them a spectacle.”
Cindy Purvis, a delegate from Erie, Pennsylvania donned a self-made “Single Payer” gown of sorts and said she came into town early to march in a protest for clean energy. She said she knew Sanders was being slighted all along. “This is politics,” she said.
“We’re going to continue, although Bernie was, in fact, cheated. Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped aside, which she needed to do. Now, there is a grieving process. And then, we take the White House so Donald Trump doesn’t ruin our country and our people and then we continue with our movement.”
First Lady Michelle Obama offered a warm endorsement of Clinton towards the end of the night when she called Hillary her “friend” and “the only person I trust with this responsibility.”
“I want a president who will teach our children that everyone in this country matters—a president who truly believes in the vision that our founders put forth all those years ago, that we are all created equal, that we are all part of the great American story.”
Sanders rejuvenated the crowd by finishing off the night on a high note, telling his supporters that “I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am [that Hillary will likely clinch the nomination].“ He thanked the two and a half million Americans who helped fund his campaign with an unprecedented eight million individual campaign contributions. His average contribution was $27.
“Election Days come and go, but the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one percent–that struggle continues,” he said. “And I look forward to being part of that struggle with you. Let me be as clear as I can be. This election is not about–it has never been about–Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or any of the other candidates who sought the presidency. It’s not about political gossip or campaign strategy or fundraising or all the things that the media spends so much time deciding. It’s about–and must be about–the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and our grandchildren.”