PHILADELPHIA — After two weeks of political conventions, the race for the White House is now in the hands of the candidates and their campaign staffs.
After Donald Trump and his fellow, apparently fractured Republican Party members held their national convention in Cleveland, the Democratic Party held its conclave in Philadelphia with the promise that unity would be the major theme. Most Democrats interviewed said the same thing: the Democrats would show the Republicans what working together is all about.
That didn’t exactly happen. Despite a rousing acceptance speech by nominee Hillary Clinton on the DNC’s last day, there still seems to be a lot of work to be done to bring the party together. A significant percentage of supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have yet to be convinced that Clinton will carry the torch of the progressive issues brought forth by Sanders-led political revolution.
Despite Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton, his two speeches at the convention and many more to his supporters and to several state delegations, many just aren’t ready to get behind Clinton and subscribe to her “Stronger Together” campaign theme.
Sanders’ delegates in Philadelphia said they want to believe Clinton, but, as Akron City Councilwoman Tara Mosley Samples said, “I’m not there yet.” Her sentiment was repeated often by Sanders’ supporters, and not just the “Bernie or Bust” Democrats who staged several protest rallies throughout the four days of the convention.
Sanders’ supporters, mostly younger people, want the next president to go after greed on Wall Street, protect the environment and reduce college debt. These are the people who staged a a loud rally at Philadelphia City Hall and later paraded down Broad Street Monday, preventing shuttle buses from transporting delegates to the Wells Fargo Center. These same “Bernie or Busters” also shouted and held signs at the convention site as Democrats entered the arena.
About 30 of the Sanders’ supporters were taken into police custody the first night of the convention.
So much for unity.
However, the following three days of the DNC saw a gradual coming together of the Democratic party, thanks to a continuous stream of speakers who each brought distinctive stories to the attendees, attempting to show why Democrats are better fit to be members of Congress and president and vice president.
And capping it all off was Clinton’s acceptance speech Thursday night that electrified the crowd. Whether you’re a Clinton supporter or not, it was clear she presented herself as presidential and is capable of handling the job she has coveted since 2007 when she lost the party nomination to Barack Obama, a young senator from Illinois.
Grace McGregor Kramer, a Hillary delegate from Scranton, said Clinton’s speech inspired most of the delegates in the audience. She said even Sanders’ supporters got emotional when Clinton made points on issues close to their hearts.
“I think the Bernie people will come around,” she said. “It may take a little longer for some but, in the end, they will support Hillary because they are Democrats.”
Sanders’ delegate Eric Graff, of Mountain Top, said he’s already on board the Hillary train.
“As a Democrat, you have to support the party,” he said. “Voting for a third party candidate or not voting at all only improves Donald Trump’s chances.”
Prior to the DNC, much was said about how important Pennsylvania would be in deciding the next president. In fact, during the Republican National Convention, many top-level Republicans, including Trump, visited with the Pennsylvania GOP Delegation.
The same treatment was expected to be given to the Pennsylvania Democratic Delegation in Philadelphia. However, other than Sen. Bob Casey, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Gov. Tom Wolf, no high-ranking Democrats paid a visit to rally the troops. It left a bad feeling with delegates who expected to hear from the party higher-ups.
Sanders was supposed to speak to the PA Delegation, but he cancelled, as did actor Danny Glover. Vice President Joe Biden didn’t stop by, nor did any other top Democrats. Given Trump’s drawing power, Democrats need to be more attentive of fellow Democrats in key battleground states that could decide the election.
As Democrats struggle to support their candidate, the voting public must also decide who they want as their next president. At some point, Trump and Clinton will begin to discuss — in detail — the real issues facing the country and what each will specifically do to improve the economy, national security, women’s rights, education, corporate greed and more.
And, if voters pay attention, they will be able to make a somewhat informed decision before they walk into voting booths on Nov. 8.
Some who attended the DNC are cautiously optimistic about the chances of Clinton winning and of Democrats gaining control of the U.S. Senate, but said they aren’t as convinced as some “experts” about how Trump supposedly can’t beat Clinton.
One longtime political observer/consultant said the last thing the Democrats should do is underestimate Trump’s popularity. That person said to look at the numbers in Northeastern Pennsylvania, for example, where Democrats hold a decisive edge in registration over Republicans.
Yet, when Clinton came to town, she drew about 600 people to a high school gymnasium in Scranton. Sanders had about 1,700 at the Scranton Cultural Center. In April, Trump drew more than 11,000 people to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre Township. And, if you believe the Trump campaign people, they turned away another 4,000.
Add to that, the political consultant said, the more times Trump utters something offensive or politically incorrect, his numbers go up.
“If these people come out and vote on Nov. 8, there could be a lot of shocked experts out there,” the consultant said. “Democrats need to get their act together and make sure they get the vote out and that they are organized for a hard fight between now and November.”
The political conventions are over. The balloons have fallen and the confetti has been swept away.
All that’s left are the candidates and how they address the issues.
When is the first debate?
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.