The DNC began Monday with a failed attempt to stave off discord and disorganization, as aides to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders struggled to prevent a prime-time revolt by Sanders allies furious over their candidate’s treatment by the Democratic National Committee.
In the moments before the convention gaveled in, Clinton aide Marlon Marshall and Sanders deputy campaign manager Rich Pelletier huddled to discuss preventing visible disruptions by Sanders allies. Sanders sent out a last-minute text message to his delegates encouraging them to “not engage in any kind of protest on the floor.”
“It’s of utmost importance you explain this to your delegations,” Sanders wrote in the text, signed simply “Bernie.”
In a follow-up email, Sanders begged delegates to resist the urge to protest, warning that “our credibility as a movement will be damaged” if delegates walk out, turn their backs or boo.
It was the first sign that an attempt to appease Sanders supporters earlier in the day — the ouster of outgoing DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from the convention stage – appeared to fall short. Some Sanders allies, still fuming over leaked emails that showcase the DNC leadership’s favoritism for Clinton, chanted “lock her up” on the convention floor – echoing a Republican rallying cry from last week’s GOP national convention.
Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who stepped in to chair the convention in place of Wasserman Schultz, found herself immediately drowned out by restive Democratic delegates screaming support for Sanders and wielding signs encourage the defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “Excuse me,” an irritated Fudge chided delegates from the podium. “I intend to be respectful of you, and I want you to be respectful of me. We’re all Democrats and we need to act like it!”
Subsequent speakers were continuously interrupted by pro-Bernie chants – even as they pleaded for unity.
“Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are our champions. They both deserve our cheers,” said Wellington Webb, former mayor of Denver.
The fractious opening note of the convention came as the DNC worked intensely to soothe Sanders allies.
“On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email,” the DNC said in a statement from its leadership. “These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not — and will not — tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates. Individual staffers have also rightfully apologized for their comments, and the DNC is taking appropriate action to ensure it never happens again.”