PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton’s campaign message may be, "We’re stronger together," but certain pockets of the Democratic National Convention feel more like a parody of that slogan.
Overshadowed by yet another email controversy, the Democratic Party is dealing with disgruntled factions who are disappointed Bernie Sanders isn’t their nominee. Emboldened by damning emails showing favoritism toward Clinton, Sanders supporters have organized protests outside the convention, including a sit-in that forced reporters to remain inside a media pavilion at the Wells Fargo Center.
Loud jeering and protests inside the convention hall characterized day one of the DNC and continued throughout the event, with protesters heckling high-profile speakers including Sarah Silverman, Elizabeth Warren, and even the president of the United States.
I tried to do my part to fix the Democratic Party by forcing Katie Halper, a self-described Bernie Bro, and Ben O’Keefe, a Hillary supporter, to perform the ultimate act of teamwork: assembling Ikea furniture, a communication exercise crafted by relationship therapist Ramani Durvasula. But after spending over an hour with them, consensus wasn’t reached nor was a night table built.
For Clinton to win, it’s do or die time to woo Sanders supporters
You would think that uniting a party running against a Republican billionaire who calls Mexicans "rapists" and women "fat pigs" would be a piece of cake for the Democrats, but apparently it’s easier said than done. Despite Clinton clinching the nomination and Bernie himself endorsing her, a large number are still refusing to give their support to the party’s candidate.
The #BernieOrBust movement persists, with an Economist/YouGov survey showing that only 44 percent of people who voted for Sanders in the primaries intend to vote for Clinton this fall. But what differentiates Sanders and Clinton? According to their voting record, not that much. But the resistance to get on board with Clinton might have something to do with the profile of a Sanders primary supporter.
According to data analyzed by Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight, the Sanders campaign attracted voters who are less likely to vote in elections, and they are also less likely to identify as either Democrats or Republicans. In other words, Bernie voters are less reliable Democratic voters. According to Enten, this means Clinton should incorporate Sanders’s ideals as much as possible into her messaging to those voters, whether it be in political ads or on the campaign trail, especially in swing states.
"But I also think she needs to listen and she needs to talk," Enten said. "She needs to tell her own story. Part of the reason [Trump] is tight in the polls now is because he was able to use the convention to make himself better liked. If Hillary Clinton can use this convention, it can help her grab those Bernie Sanders supporters," he told Vox.
The prominence of Sanders and his surrogates at the convention is at least one indicator that the Clinton camp is aware it needs to win over this coalition of voters. Even as they presented their cases for Clinton, President Barack Obama and Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine included the slogan "Feel the Bern" in their addresses, which certainly didn’t do any harm.
Perhaps the Democratic National Convention was the chaotic family therapy session the party needed. After going through all the stages of grief, the gathering may have allowed some Sanders primary voters to get past the anger and denial and finally let themselves enter the last stage: acceptance.
Embracing the nominee and her platform might not be easy for some of these atypical Democratic and independent progressive voters, but the fact that Clinton’s opponent has spent the last 24 hours asking Russian operatives to hack into the US State Department, maybe by the time the convention is over, the choice won’t seem as difficult.