In a rousing speech Monday night, Democratic presidential runner-up Bernie Sanders tried to rally his political party to the progressive agenda that endeared him to millions of primary voters — while also urging the party to unite behind the woman he lost to, Hillary Clinton.
“This election is not about, and has never been about, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders or any of the other candidates who sought the presidency,” he said. “This election is about — and must be about — the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and grandchildren.”
Sanders was the most anticipated speaker of the first night of the Democratic National Convention — not only because he took the microphone last, but because it came at the end of a day full of discord stirred by some of his supporters, who are still reluctant to accept Clinton’s coming nomination.
“We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor. We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger — not leadership which insults Latinos, Muslims, women, African Americans and veterans — and divides us up,” Sanders said. “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. The choice is not even close.”
Unlike his remarks to supporters earlier in the day — also attempting to smooth hard feelings — this time, on the floor of Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Arena, Sanders didn’t get booed. He did get interrupted, with chants of “We want Bernie!”
“He’s with her!” Clinton fans counter-chanted after Sanders’ speech.
Perhaps the best argument for Clinton’s presidential ambitions came from the woman who holds one of Clinton’s former titles: first lady.
Michelle Obama offered a robust, spirited defense of Clinton — and a tear-down of Republican nominee Trump — in a speech that energized delegates well into Monday night.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you this country isn’t great, that we need to make it great again,” Obama said, pointedly referring to Trump’s campaign slogan. “Right now, this is the greatest country on earth.”
As Democratic politics were roiled by dissatisfied Sanders fans, Obama praised Clinton for how she handled losing the 2008 election.
“She didn’t get angry or disillusioned,” Obama said. “Hillary did not pack up and go home, because as a true public servant, Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her desire and disappointment.”
Clinton, Obama continued in another unmistakable jab at Trump and his prolific Twitter feed, knows “the issues a president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.”
Obama’s voice caught as she spoke about the possibility of electing the nation’s first woman president. Her daughters, Malia and Sasha, she said, “now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.”
Underscoring the historic nature of her husband’s own presidency, Obama said: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves and I watch my daughters... play with their dog on the White House lawn.”
After the speech, TV cameras zoomed in on former President Bill Clinton, who was on his feet applauding and saying, “Wow.”
Obama’s tour-de-force was followed by U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — a favorite among liberal Democrats — who remained neutral during the primary but has since endorsed Clinton. Warren, who has relished taking on Trump in Twitter rants and speeches, took an opportunity to do so again — this time on national television.
“Other than talking about building a stupid wall, which will never get built, other than that wall, did you hear any actual ideas” from Trump’s speech last week accepting the Republican nomination, she asked.
“No!” came the crowd’s response.
“Did you hear even one solid proposal from Trump — for increasing incomes, or improving your kids’ education, or creating even one, single good-paying job? Let’s face it: Donald Trump has no real plans.”
“We are not going to be Donald Trump’s hate-filled America — not now, not ever,” she added.
Both women were preceded by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, whose booming voice demanded to be heard. Invoking poet Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” Booker engaged in call-and-response with the audience: “America, we will rise,” he proclaimed.
Booker also attempted to narrow the divide between the Clinton and Sanders camps, which was Democratic leaders’ top objective after a day of unrest stirred by Sanders supporters.
“Patriotism is love of country, but you can’t love your country without loving your countrymen and your countrywomen,” he said. “And we don’t always have to agree, but we must be there for each other. We must empower each other. We must find the common ground, and we must build bridges among our differences to pursue the common good.”