By Matthew Miller
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) seemed determined not be upstaged by their counterpart’s antics. Hillary Clinton secured enough delegate votes during the primary season which silenced any talk of a contested election. But if she and her team of over 800 employees thought that this would quell her detractors within the party, they were mistaken. Hoping to project a measure of unity proved fruitless as the undercurrents of discord and mistrust were not confined to the convention in Cleveland.
Before the convention kicked off in Philadelphia, WikiLeaks released a trove of around 20,000 DNC emails online. And to supporters of Bernie Sanders, the self-avowed Democratic Socialist who gave Hillary Clinton flashbacks of her 2008 run against a first-term US Senator from Chicago, a number of the email correspondences confirmed that the Democratic Party had been actively working for the former Secretary of State and against the Senator from Vermont. One email string alluded to the fact that Mr. Sanders might be an atheist and that this would not sit well with Southern Baptists. Another contained a spreadsheet listing names of corporate executives and professional fundraisers along with proposed appointments should Clinton be elected president. Democrats have sought to deflect their constituency’s ire from the content of these emails by attempting to divert their attention towards the implication that the hackers originated from Russia at the behest of Donald Trump.
Sanders supporters vocalized their displeasure throughout the four day affair. Chants of “shame on you!” were directed to the now former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Others accused her of rigging the election. Subsequent speakers received jeers whenever they mentioned Ms. Clinton by name. These all seemed to fall upon deaf ears. DWS (Debbie Wasserman Schultz) will come aboard, with the Hillary campaign stating that Ms. Schultz “will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally.” The usual smattering of Hollywood celebrities did little to convince the often unruly crowd that Hillary was their best hope for change, painting her as the only pragmatic choice. C-list comedian Sarah Silverman reprimanded the more ardent Sanders supporters by calling them “ridiculous” and earning herself a round of heckles.
The democratic superstars concluded the first three nights with rousing endorsements of Clinton. Michelle Obama gave a solid speech that contained a number of subtle jabs at Trump without mentioning his name. Her most effective rebuttal was when she pleaded for people not to “… let anyone tell you that you this country isn’t great … because this right now is the greatest country on Earth.” President Obama fawned over his one-time rival proclaiming, “I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman … more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.” He then embraced Ms. Clinton. Both performances were a lesson in politics as it is an unspoken truth that both families are not on friendly terms.
Former President Bill Clinton attempted to humanize his wife and convince listeners that she is not untrustworthy. His was an uphill battle: a recent CBS News/New York Times poll concluded that 67 percent of respondents thought her “not honest or untrustworthy.” He painted a portrait of a selfless civil servant who helped poor and abused children, conveniently leaving out her subsequent stint with the country’s second oldest and one of its most prestigious law firms.
Tim Kaine, a Democratic Senator from Virginia, accepted the Vice Presidential nod. The former Virginia governor is known as a mild mannered policy wonk who tends to lean towards the center on most issues. His choosing is seen as an olive branch to those pro-business and the socially moderate segments who are on the fence the about Trump or are usually independent and largely undecided. Of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) he has stated, “I think it’s an upgrade of labor standards, I think it’s an upgrade of environmental standards. I think it’s an upgrade of intellectual standards.”
Hillary’s speech was largely forgettable as the self-proclaimed unnatural politician recited generic platitudes. She reminded those who might have forgotten that she was a woman and a mother and that she was breaking the glass ceiling for all those who might follow in her footsteps. She lambasted Trump for his fear mongering and then proceeded to portray November’s choice as a stark one, a “moment of reckoning.” She went on to disregard any modicum of reality in regard to the checks and balances of our government and armed forces when she presented listeners with a false choice between her and Trump when she stated that “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man who we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Presidential election years are the Olympics for news outlets. The primaries are the Olympic trials and the party conventions are the opening ceremonies. And for the purveyors of the 24/7 news cycles, the current election cycle has already proven a classic. It has been a passionate affair that has continually stumped pollsters and pundits. A large contingent refused to give credence to the idea that Bernie Sanders would have enough clout to garner and maintain the vociferous following he has amassed. Even fewer expected Trump to last a couple months into the republican primaries, let alone become the GOP’s official nominee. In an election where observers are willing and able to fact check statements and past records online, it should come as no surprise that a significant portion of potential voters are dissatisfied with the political process. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and the internet has shed light on the dark side of politics. It is not that the backroom machinations are new, it is that people are now more aware of them. The professional pollsters and politicos should internalize this new reality if they still find themselves flummoxed at the rise of a figure like Donald Trump.