DNC 2016 Diary – Waiting on the world to change


On Tuesday evening, just after the Democratic National Convention made Hillary Clinton their official nominee for President, Maria Hutchinson stood impassively next to the complimentary charging station in the hallway of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In front of her, delegates, celebrities, political figures, journalists, staff, guests and volunteers were rushing, racing, jockeying to get to one thing or another – food, restrooms, elevators, seats inside the arena, or perhaps the protests outside – across an expanse of asphalt, concrete and steel, past the security tent, in the cordoned-off “free speech” zone.

New York casts its #DNC2016 ballots.

A video posted by Kim Pearson (@journogeek) on

Hutchinson, a Bernie Sanders delegate from Hudson, Wisconsin had come a long way to stand in the hallway, waiting for her phone to charge.

I met Maria because I was charging my devices too, with the intent of gathering more material and story ideas. I asked her what she thought of the convention so far. The question elicited a rueful sigh. She said that she and her family had volunteered and donated money to the Sanders campaign – more money than she had, really. Sanders had won Wisconsin’s April 5th primary handily, beating Clinton by 13 percentage points. But now, Clinton had officially the nominee. I don’t think I’ll be staying, she said, adding that she had learned long ago that you shouldn’t stick around if you are being abused.

Did she feel that she and other Sanders supporters had been abused? Alluding to the controversy over Wikileaks’ disclosure of emails among staff members of the Democratic National Committee, Hutchinson said, “I think it’s been proven that the upper echelon of the Democratic Party was conspiring against the Sanders campaign. The leadership was forced to resign and then was immediately hired by the Democratic nominee.”

Hutchinson was talking, of course about Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl), who had been forced to resign her post as DNC chair as a result of the furor over the email revelations.  In accepting her resignation, Hillary Clinton announced that she would become an honorary chair of her campaign. Some Clinton partisans argued that the appointment meant nothing. On the DailyKos site, Mark Sumner argued that the appointment was a fig leaf, a “courtesy,”

“Being an honorary chair does not mean that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is “in charge of” Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It doesn’t mean anything. That is, unless you think President Obama’s 2012 campaign was run by actress Eva Longoria; or former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee; or high school guidance counselor Loretta Harper—all of whom were among 24 people who served as honorary co-chairs of Obama’s 2012 campaign.”

But to Hutchinson and many Sanders supporters, Clinton’s “courtesy” looked more like a gesture of approval for what they have seen as a string of irregularities, abuses and needless complexities throughout the nominating process. Hutchinson said,  “I think that if Wasserman Schultz is guilty [of conspiring against Sanders], so is Hillary.”

What about Sanders’ plea for party unity, or the assertion by his former staff member Symone Sanders that whatever the problems with the primary process, Hillary Clinton legitimately won the primary? We were speaking just after Sanders’ rollcall motion to nominate Clinton by acclamation and a walkout by hundreds of hundreds of Sanders partisans.

Hutchinson said Sanders was doing what he had to do, politically, and his gesture toward Clinton just showed that, “he’s a classy guy.” She still respected Senator Sanders, but she didn’t feel compelled to follow his lead, adding, “I’m worried about the fact that [Hillary] is not transparent.” She was bothered by Clinton’s history of misstatements, such as her debunked claim that she had been under sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia as First Lady. There was nothing Clinton could do to redeem herself in Hutchinson’s eyes. “She can’t undo what’s been done.”

Hutchinson allowed that she was worried about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, “but I’m not responsible for that.” She had volunteered, donated, and raised money to support the candidate who she thought was best for the country. That’s a point of contention in her family, she added. Her relatives believe that Democrats have to get behind the party’s nominee to stop Trump. Polls by Pew Research conducted this past spring indicate that most Sanders supporters will support Clinton in the fall, but it’s anyone’s guess what that means for the general election.

So what now? Hutchinson wasn’t sure. The Green Party’s platform seemed to reflect Sanders’ ideals – she planned to look into them. She added, “I do believe that Bernie’s call for people to become involved [in politics] at all levels will be heeded.”

After I closed my notebook and thanked her, Hutchinson said that she hadn’t spoken out before because she was concerned about losing her credentials. She said she had been told that by Wisconsin Democratic party officials that she should be prepared to support the party’s candidate. That’s consistent with the advice on a website for Wisconsin delegates, Adoptaberniedelegate.com. That site, admonished Sanders delegates that statements against the party’s nominee, or in support of a Sanders run outside of the Democratic party could be considered grounds for stripping credentials.

Hutchinson said she had stayed quiet so that she would be assured of being able to give her constituents a voice in the nominating process, but that was done now.

The clatter in the hall had become a dull roar. I had to get going. She stayed there at the charging station, waiting.

DNC 2016 Diary: Setting the stage

I’m in Philadelphia, my home, and the site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and I wanted to make this a post about some of the things that you might not know about Philly, or about the Convention if you aren’t here. But the events of the last few days can’t be ignored, so let’s start with what you probably already know.

For presumptive Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic National Convention opening in Philadelphia today, was supposed to be a celebration and a show of unity. After decades in the public eye and in public office, the former First Lady, United States Senator and Secretary of State is about to crash the penultimate glass ceiling as she becomes the first major-party woman candidate for President.

Clinton had survived a fractious primary season battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders, weathering controversy over the way she handled her emails as Secretary of State, and a Republican Convention where she was characterized as a criminal and even an admirer of the Devil. She had finally secured Sen. Sanders’ endorsement and pledge to support the campaign. Her choice of Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate had garnered praise. Senator Sanders has endorsed her and pledged his support to help keep GOP nominee Donald Trump out of office.

Then Wikileaks dropped 20,000 emails purportedly from the Democratic National Committee’s servers. It was the second breach – an earlier leak disclosed opposition research on Trump. The emails lent credence to what Sanders and his supporters have been saying for months – that the DNC, led by long-time Clinton ally Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl) – had its thumb on the scales in favor of Clinton throughout the primaries.  It also raised questions about cybersecurity and whether Russian president Vladimir Putin or his allies are trying to meddle in the election. Conspiracy theorists note that Trump has expressed admiration for Putin, and allegedly has business connections to close to the Russian strongman.

Whatever the truth, the revelations have rocked the DNC, and the party moved quickly Sunday to contain the damage. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) is replacing Schultz as the Convention chair. Schultz is out as DNC chair when the Convention ends, to be replaced by vice chair Donna Brazile, another long-time Clinton ally.

Political observers will be watching Sanders’ speech tonight to the DNC see whether he will signal his supporters to put the latest controversy behind them and stick with Clinton. Getting his supporters on Clinton’s side was already going to be a challenge. Even before the latest revelations, the city disclosed that they expected as many as 50,000 demonstrators per day, with many Bernie-or-Busters among them. Indeed, they were out in force over the weekend, with two marches and rallies on Sunday that drew more than 1,000 people in near 100-degree heat: one for clean energy, and one for Sanders. Here are some pictures that I took from the first march.


Protest march 7/24/16

A photo posted by Kim Pearson (@journogeek) on Jul 25, 2016 at 6:12am PDT


#DNC2016 protestor Sunday, 7/24/2016

A photo posted by Kim Pearson (@journogeek) on Jul 25, 2016 at 6:09am PDT

There’s also this panoramic shot

A couple of final obervations:

1. One thing that visitors to downtown Philly won’t see this week in the numbers we residents are accustomed to, are homeless people: the city is spending extra money to provide beds and shelter from the heat.

2. While the main event is occurring at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, Convention activities are spread around the city. Here’s one handy guide.

3. To help Convention goers get around town more easily, the City is letting Uber drivers operate legally this week. This has incensed taxi drivers, who have been insisting that Uber doesn’t have to pay the same fees or submit to the same regulations as taxi companies. Taxi drivers plan to protest at 11 pm at the site of Uber’s corporate DNC reception tonight.

4. Interactions between the convention-goers, police and protestors have been polite, even cordial at times, as far as I have observed. Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Richarrd Ross had stressed their desire to keep things peaceful, rejecting the more authoritarian stance taken by the city during the Republican Convention here in 2000. As this report from The Atlantic notes, the city, police and protest organizations were in contact before the Convention, and protestors have stressed discipline and cooperation. That said, the protestors have lawyers ready to respond to any hint of police excesses, and the police and firefighters have an emergency operations center at the ready.

The police presence is definitely heavy downtown, although nothing like last year’s visit from Pope Francis. At the march yesterday, protestors were polite and friendly. I saw a police officer taking a photo for a group of DNC staffers at the Convention Center. I saw another group of officers helping a lost child find his father.  The city has  set up watering stations and misting stations to help marchers survive the heat, and medics are on hand at the designated protest areas.

So, for all of the drama that is expected in the streets, at this point, any unexpected fireworks are likely to take place inside the Wells Fargo Center, as disgruntled Sanders supporters vent their anger at what they see as a rigged process. Some are even hoping for a contested convention.  And this is what happened when Rep. Wasserman Schultz spoke to Florida delegates at a breakfast this morning:


 It’s going to be a busy day. Stay tuned.




Kim Pearson

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