Unconventional #43: DNC Day One — The ‘Post-Obama Drama’ Edition

Andrew Romano
·West Coast Correspondent

Coming to you live every morning from Philadelphia, Unconventional is the one thing you need to read to understand what’s really happening at the Democratic National Convention. Each edition will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the biggest (and weirdest) moments of the day, with original dispatches from the entire Yahoo Politics team — plus a sneak peek at what’s next.

_____

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is out — and the convention hasn’t even started. Why the drama in Philly probably won’t end there.


PHILADELPHIA — A fight to free the delegates. Melania plagiarizing Michelle. “Lock her up!” Ted Cruz refusing to endorse. And Donald Trump channeling Richard Nixon, with a touch of Mussolini for good measure (at least according to his critics).

For sheer conflict — and near-psychedelic strangeness — it will be difficult for this week’s Democratic National Convention to match last week’s GOP shindig in Cleveland.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any drama.

As normal human beings spent their weekends recuperating from the RNC, various forces and factions within (and without) the Democratic Party began to converge on the City of Brotherly Love, bringing their agendas and grievances along with them.

Meanwhile, a devilish act of political subterfuge threatened to further inflame tensions in the final hours before the convention: WikiLeaks’ release of nearly 20,000 emails suggesting that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other party leaders preferred presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton to underdog Bernie Sanders, even though they claimed to be impartial.

As Yahoo News’ Michael Walsh has reported, the DNC emails “contain embarrassing exchanges in which DNC top brass mock Sanders’ campaign, think up anti-Sanders narratives, and apparently consider using Sanders’ religious beliefs” — or lack thereof — “to minimize his support.”

Sanders appeared Sunday on both CNN and ABC to remind viewers that he has long accused Wasserman Schultz & Co. of favoring Clinton — and to demand her resignation again.

“I don’t think she is qualified to be the chair of the DNC,” Sanders snapped. “Not only for these awful emails — which revealed the prejudice of the DNC — but also because we need a party that reaches out to working people and young people, and I don’t think her leadership style is doing that. I think she should resign, period.”

Within minutes, CNN was reporting that the DNC Rules Committee had relieved Wasserman Schultz of her role as convention chair and replaced her with Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge. A few hours later, news broke that Wasserman Schultz would, in fact, resign from the DNC after the convention.

It was an extraordinary last-minute upheaval that demonstrated how worried Team Clinton is about keeping everything copacetic at the Wells Fargo Center.

The question now, however, is whether the Bernie or Bust crowd will play along.

They had hoped, for instance, to abolish the process that gives Democratic superdelegates the power to tip a party primary toward their preferred candidate. More than 130,000 people signed a petition in support of the effort.

“It is our belief as sponsors of this resolution that our Democratic Party’s internal structure and processes need to reflect our core values,” explained Rhode Island state Rep. Aaron Regunberg on Saturday. “It is a fundamentally elitist argument to say that there are folks at the top who know better than anyone else.”

But after several rounds of Rules Committee voting, the amendment was defeated 108 to 58.

At the same time, Sanders fans — who have long demanded that Clinton tap as her running mate a true-blue liberal such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown or even Sanders himself — were bitterly disappointed Friday when Clinton selected the more moderate Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.

“Secretary Clinton must know that her choice of Kaine can only inflame rather than soothe her relations with the huge constituency of Bernie supporters,” Norman Solomon, co-founder of the online advocacy group RootsAction.org and national coordinator for the Bernie Delegates Network, told Common Dreams in response to the news. “If Clinton has reached out to Bernie supporters, it appears that she has done so to stick triangulating thumbs in their eyes.”

Inside the Wells Fargo Center, it’s unlikely that these gripes will amount to much. Wasserman Schultz is gone. Sanders is speaking Monday, and he has promised, via press release, to “make it clear” that this year’s platform is “the most progressive” in “Democratic Party history” and that “Hillary Clinton is by far superior to Donald Trump on every major issue from economics and health care to education and the environment.” And in stark contrast to the RNC, where a C-list of Trump friends, family members, employees and largely forgotten “celebrity” endorsers took the stage, the DNC schedule is packed with popular Democratic figures: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren. These developments should defuse the situation somewhat.

Also, the Clinton and Sanders campaigns agreed, after the superdelegate amendment failed, to create a “unity commission” tasked with reexamining the entire nominating process, and even Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver endorsed the plan, arguing that it would “result in the reduction of superdelegates as we know them by two-thirds.” So while Team Sanders earned enough votes on the Rules Committee to file a minority report and force the entire convention to spar over superdelegates on the floor of the arena, they probably won’t.

Outside the hall, however, things may get messier. Each day, the city is expecting 35,000 to 50,000 demonstrators to gather at six nearby protest sites. Nearly all the permitted protest groups are more sympathetic to Sanders than to Clinton. Some will call for voters to “deregister” from the major parties. Some are planning to block thoroughfares used to transport delegates to and from the arena. Some will be staging a “Mock Trial of Hillary Clinton.” Some are willing to be arrested. Some will be marching a 51-foot inflatable marijuana joint from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center.

The first pro-Sanders demonstration, held Sunday, attracted 1,000 people, making it far larger than any of the protest marches last week in Cleveland.

Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary,” the crowd chanted. “Lock her up! Lock her up!

“If the Democratic Party wants to put on a $50 million infomercial saying, ‘Hey vote for us,’ without committing to make this the last corrupt, billionaire-nominated voter suppression-marred election,” Democracy Spring’s Kai Newkirk recently told CNN, “then we’re going to crash the party.”

_____

Overheard

Clinton supporter: “A vote for Bernie is a vote for Trump!”
Sanders supporter: “Yeah, well, a vote for Hillary is a vote for Romney!”

_____

On the ground at Kaine’s first campaign event

By Liz Goodwin

MIAMI — Sen. Tim Kaine called Hillary Clinton his soulmate on Saturday, in his first appearance as her vice presidential pick in front of a crowd of 5,000 at Florida International University.

And Kaine, who was seen as the safe and more centrist choice for Clinton, showed that even though he is self-admittedly “boring,” he is a skilled and natural campaigner who can reach out to minority voters.

Kaine sketched out his personal history — helping his dad in a steel shop in Kansas, marrying his wife, Anne Holton (“the best decision of my life”), working in Honduras with Jesuit missionaries and becoming a civil rights lawyer fighting housing discrimination. He leaned into his considerable political experience, even in a year when antiestablishment feelings are strong, telling the crowd that he’s one of only 20 people in history who have served as a senator, mayor and governor.

(Read the full story here.)

With a nod to the local Miami community, Kaine showcased his fluent Spanish at the rally, saying he and Clinton were “compañeros de alma,” or soulmates, and describing his core values picked up during his year in Honduras as fe, familia and trabajo (faith, family and work). He also explicitly reached out to the immigrants in the crowd, asking anyone who had become a naturalized U.S. citizen to raise a hand. “Thanks for choosing us!” he said. Kaine told the crowd that he and Clinton would work to get immigration reform passed if elected.

Though Kaine is not an attack dog, he sounded a feisty note when describing how he had won statewide election in Virginia despite the National Rifle Association’s opposing him.

“They’ve campaigned against me in every statewide race I’ve ever run, but I’ve never lost an election,” he said. “That’s just like an extra cup of coffee to me, folks! It just gets me more excited. I’m 8-0, and I’m not about to let that change.”

A few protesters briefly interrupted the Kaine event, shouting “DNC leaks!” before they were ejected.

Republicans are attempting to paint Kaine as a centrist choice that betrays the left’s liberal base. RNC consultant Sean Spicer called the Democratic ticket the most “establishment” in history, and RNC Chair Reince Priebus said Kaine does “nothing” to unify the party.

GOP nominee Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets on Saturday morning, deriding the choice of Kaine and appealing to Sanders supporters.

“The Bernie Sanders supporters are furious with the choice of Tim Kaine, who represents the opposite of what Bernie stands for. Philly fight?” Trump asked.

_____

Convention diary

Click through for the full convention diary from North Carolina delegate Vinod Thomas.

_____

How Kaine became one of Obama’s biggest war critics

By Olivier Knox

Nobody knows better than Hillary Clinton the steep political price to pay for voting in favor of an unpopular war. And nobody has worked harder to force lawmakers to set aside their reelection fears and vote on President Obama’s war on the so-called Islamic State than her freshly anointed running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine.

Clinton’s 2002 “yes” vote on legislation permitting George W. Bush to hurl America’s military against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq helped smother her 2008 presidential hopes. Kaine has bluntly told colleagues who are worried about the long-term political fallout of voting yes (or no) to a war on ISIS that ducking a vote now amounts to cowardice and sets a terrifying precedent for unchecked presidential war-making power.

“What could be more immoral than ordering troops to risk their lives in a war that Congress was unwilling to publicly support?” Kaine asked at the Virginia Military Institute graduation in May. “Members of Congress have chosen to avoid a vote on the theory that either a yes or no vote carries political risk. In my view, this is a shameful abdication of responsibility.”

(Read the full story here.)

The Virginia lawmaker, a member of the Senate committees on the armed services and foreign relations, first called in mid-2014 for Congress to vote on Obama’s undeclared but escalating war against the rampaging death cult. The White House insisted at the time that it did not need legislation known as an authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF. Obama said he had all the authority he needed in the AUMF passed to greenlight the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the lasting war on al-Qaida, a notion Kaine has dismissed as an “Alice in Wonderland argument,” given that ISIS did not exist until years later.

“We have allowed President Obama to wage an executive war of his own choosing without any congressional permission for nearly two years,” the senator told VMI cadets. “It’s not hard to imagine that a future president will use this example to also justify initiating war without the permission of Congress.”

A spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, Jesse Lehrich, told Yahoo News on Saturday that the former secretary of state “agrees with Senator Kaine that if we are serious about confronting ISIS, Congress ought to express its resolve to stand behind our military and win this fight by passing a new AUMF, and she has publicly applauded Kaine’s efforts.”

Kaine has not hesitated to criticize Obama’s handling of the conflict, warning at one point in late 2015 that there was no “credible” strategy.

_____

The big picture

Photographer Khue Bui is on the ground in Philadelphia, capturing all the action for Yahoo News. Here’s his most unconventional pic of the day.

_____

By the numbers

550

The approximate number of LGBT delegates at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

600

The number of LGBT delegates (of 4,765 total) expected to attend the 2016 DNC — the most ever.

_____

The best of the rest

_____

What to watch Monday

Theme: United Together

Gavel in: 4:30 p.m.

Speakers:
First Lady Michelle Obama
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
DREAMer Astrid Silva

Gavel out: 11:00 p.m.

Afterparty:
Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords is hosting a concert for her gun-control group Americans for Responsible Solutions, with appearances by Southern-rock band Drive-By Truckers, “Pitch Perfect” actress Elizabeth Banks and “Star Trek” actor George Takei

_____

Related slideshow:

Demonstrators protest outside the DNC >>>