After a relatively subdued roll call—with a few defiant boos and chants—it appeared that day two of the Democratic National Convention might go off without a hitch. The previous day had been a raucous affair with progressives audibly protesting any mention of the now-Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. The lower decibel level appeared a good sign for the party struggling to regain the trust of its voters after an email leak revealed that within the DNC there was an accepted culture of preference in favor of Clinton rather than neutrality, prompting the chair to resign.
Speaking with Dawn Abate, a Bernie Delegate from Florida, I asked why the energy level differential seemed so high. “Bernie Sanders asked us not to demonstrate on the floor of the convention,” Abate said. “We won’t do that to Bernie…but stick around.”
And stick around I did—and as a result, I bore witness to a political eruption.
It began with a visit from Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who, evidently sensing the significance of the moment, had decided to stop by during the roll call, and give a stump speech inside the halls of the Wells Fargo Center. “Do not give up your dreams, do not give up your work,” she encourage a growing crowd of Sanders delegates and journalists. “We have changed America, and we’re not going back.”
Stein’s defiant declaration was met with loud cheers and excitement. From few feet away a crowd of angry Democrats began chanting, “Go Home, Jill,” but were quickly drowned out by the Bernie supporters chanting “Bernie Or Jill!”
Then, just as the quickly as it had started, the moment was over, and Bernie Sanders had conceded the race to Hillary Clinton—making history: the first female major party nominee was chosen. But that was just one of the historic moments of the day.
Chanting “Walkout” and “This is what democracy looks like,” hundreds of angry Sanders delegates stormed out of the convention center. It was as if the Occupy Movement has moved from Zuccotti Park to inside the halls of the DNC. The growing crowd marched to the media pavilion in order to stage a sit in. Many covered their mouths in tape with the word “silenced” written across. In response to the influx of bodies, police inside locked the doors, leaving over half of the marchers outside. Pressing signs and hands up against the glass, some with tears streaming down their faces, they chanted, “The whole world is watching!” Some threatened to leave the party, holding signs that said “Demexit.”
The general consensus of the crowd was obvious: Never Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders may have brought these people into the process and the Democratic Party, but even he has been unable deliver unity behind the current nominee.
Weaving in between news cameras and protesters, I caught up with Abate. “See,” she said. “I told you to stick around!”
After about 45 minutes, the Sanders delegates exited the grounds, and joined with protesters who had marched from City Hall, in the appropriately named (for a progressive protest), Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. Estimates for the number of protesters range from hundreds to the thousands throughout the day. According to eyewitness reports, several different groups, including the Bernie delegates, converged into one. The demonstrations continued well into the night.
This nonviolent incident marks the third time in a century there was so much unrest following the nomination of a Democratic candidate—the other two being 1948 and 1968, elections where the nominee went on to be either one term or lose in the general, and a new age of American politics was ushered in. It is now official—at this point, there is no denying that the divide between Bernie supporters and Clinton supporters, is far more significant than that between Obama and Clinton supporters in 2008. In spite of headlines to the contrary, the Democratic Party is in trouble.
Standing inside the media pavilion as the sit in was taking place was a surreal experience. As protesters gathered outside and in, television monitors, broadcasting to the convention, revealed that inside the center, business was running as usual—the speakers assuring the crowd and the nation that the party would unite, and Clinton would defeat Trump in November, As I looked out on the sea of hurt, angry progressives the ridiculousness of the whole situation hit me: The party has completely lost touch with its base which does not bode well for November.
Early Monday, the nearly-infallible Nate Silver wrote that Donald Trump would have a 57.5 percent chance of defeating Hillary Clinton if the election were held that day. Yesterday, brought more dreary news as a Reuters poll found that Trump had taken the lead.
The generally accepted wisdom is that candidates usually receive a bump in the polls after their convention—as the Clinton delegates kept reminding me yesterday when I asked if they were concerned by Silver’s prediction. However, the kind of exposure these incidents garner—revealing the party’s dirty laundry to the world—is sure to put a damper on that boost for Hillary Clinton.
And the protests do not appear to be going anywhere.
“Don’t talk to me about party unity,” one of the protesters told me, pretending to respond to the convention speakers.
In my article yesterday, I predicted raucousness and unpredictability. Today, I am leaving my readers with the same prediction. Tuesday was a historic day, but more is sure to come. This is, after all, a political revolution.