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Democratic National Convention Diary

A week of diversity and positivity, a week of unrest and disunity — the Democratic National Convention kicked off in Philadelphia last Monday on the heels of Cleveland’s RNC on uneven ground. The Convention began session at the Wells Fargo Center amid controversy surrounding a revealing email leak proving the Democratic National Committee played a hand in favoring their party’s now-nominee throughout the primary race. The leak riled Democrats and forced party leaders to be on the offensive, leading to protests inside and outside the area spanning throughout the week. Though the Convention eventually found its footing, a shaky start left underlying tension that came and went in moments.

Rather, the DNC was hoping to be a counter to the RNC. The Grand Old Party turned heads the previous week for its blatant lack of party cohesion. Between painfully obvious absences among GOP leaders and former presidents to the now infamous remark Ted Cruz made upon the Convention, the DNC intended to overtly display and flaunt what the Republican Party could not. And the two at times seemed to be exact opposites of each other: negative versus positive, primarily white versus a diverse speaker lineup, and even journalists remarked the sheer number of Convention attendees made a staggering difference between Cleveland’s spacious arena and Philadelphia’s over-capacity convention center.

Day One
“Unity” and “democracy” were the two biggest buzzwords of the night after the DNC kicked off Monday under calamitous circumstances. The DNC leak and the political fallout zeroed in on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, leaving Democratic Party leaders scrambling to appease Sanders supporters who were finally able to justify why many of them felt disenfranchised from the Party. The sentiment continued, to the alarm of the Democratic National Committee, into the moment Congresswoman Marcia Fudge gaveled the Convention into session in place of Wasserman Schultz. Fudge, including other DNC officials, were booed and forced to compete against an overwhelming thrall of upset delegates. 

However, Sanders was not on board of the revolution he started. His supporters booed him Monday afternoon as he met with them and urged them to back Hillary Clinton. #BernieorBust was on the map, and even Sanders himself was alarmed. The Convention at first seemed to be trudging through the line-up, almost choosing to ignore the clear rift in the cramped Wells Fargo Center with nearly twice the number of delegates as the RNC. Sanders supporters took the stage to convince delegates to follow Hillary Clinton. Minnesota Senator Al Franken and comedian Sarah Silverman spoke frankly where Franken, a Clinton supporter, and Silverman, a Sanders supporter, “bridged the gap” and introduced Paul Simon, who sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Monday’s big buzz words became both a plea and a noble explanation for otherwise unexpected disarray. We caught up with Michael Steele, the first African American Chairman of the RNC, to find out his thoughts on Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Day Two
Moments after Bernie Sanders officially rang in Hillary Clinton’s historic party nomination, the Wells Fargo Center became something of a mixed bag. At face value, cheering erupted in the stadium and the words “2016 Democratic Nominee” appeared on the Jumbotron above the stage. The arena cut to shots of women celebrating, crying, in a chilling moment that seemed to symbolize greater progress and a leap forward. The rest of the night sailed off on the euphoric high and peaked again at the very end when, after the Jumbotron displayed the portrait of every male U.S. president, shattered to show Hillary Clinton live in New York.

But look beyond the stage and the picture changes. Clinton looked on to an emptier crowd than how it looked at the roll call vote. The floor seats and those directly facing the stage seemed more or less filled to capacity, but it started to thin on the fringe sections. In particular, the California delegation looked especially sparse. I was sitting in that section during Bill Clinton’s speech, and I overheard a delegate adorned in Sanders pins say the space is so empty because seat fillers have finally left. Protests continued throughout the day inside and outside of the arena. While Bill Clinton gave an impassioned profile on his wife, a number of Sanders delegates made it clear they would not easily acquiesce along party lines.

Day Three
All eyes were on POTUS and his right-hand man Wednesday, who depicted the image of an America already great with work to be done. The DNC highlighted the Obama administration’s work in times of crisis and in times of celebration, noting overall on the President’s character throughout it all. However, rather than sticking to party lines, the invective against Donald Trump came off as personal attacks rather than fundamental partisan differences.

Some of the featured speakers of the night included Republicans – or, moreover, their sound bites. The DNC played bites from Mitt Romney condemning the GOP nominee and reminded the audience of remarks by Barbara Bush of the same tune. Obama may have unintentionally upstaged vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s big debut, though the message throughout remained clear: the Democrats displayed a humanist angle and told audiences why their country was already great.’Bernie-or-busters’ made themselves more quietly known, displaying anti-TPP signs while the President spoke.

Day Four
Thursday was Hillary Clinton’s big night, and she delivered. The final day of the Convention wrapped as political conventions always do. Balloons and confetti fell over the crowd, the arena was buzzing with energy and the prospect of the party’s presidential candidate, and the night ends on a high note.

The DNC delivered like all others, and Hillary Clinton left Philadelphia with a personal mark. The entire Convention painted the profile of Clinton, a well-known politician for her experience, good and bad. Because of this delegates came away with a more personal side of Clinton after detailed accounts from beloved Democratic leaders ranging from Bill Clinton to the President. Clinton depicted herself as a fighter for everyone and America’s hardest working politician. She yet again countered Trump over the rhetoric that he was the only man capable of bringing America back; rather, she asserted that while she was a leader, the work would be done with everyone’s help.

One of the Convention’s biggest players overall was not the nominee herself, but Bernie Sanders. Sanders was tasked with the job of putting a band aid back on the party. However, while he made impassioned efforts to endorse Clinton and the party gave him honorable nods throughout the week, his supporters were not convinced. Some vowed to keep the Sanders revolution going with or without the Democratic Party.

By Keely Sullivan.

Keep up to date with Skype in Media and Syracuse University’s Elections Unpeeled project on Twitter and at the dedicated microsite.

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