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In Philadelphia, Democrats Look For Unity Amid The Boos


And I'm David Greene in Philadelphia where today Hillary Clinton will officially be nominated for president at the Democratic Convention. Now, Day One of that convention yesterday, it was something else. There were times when the party seemed fractured. Bernie Sanders supporters booed at speakers on stage and tried to get their message out about trade and also how they felt the nominating process went.

There were many times, also, when the party seemed unified and really proud of its legacy as the audience responded to a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama. I'm in the studio with NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea and Democratic pollster Margie Omero from PSB research. Good morning to you both.

MARGIE OMERO: Good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: Let me just ask you, you know, in a sentence or two to start out with, I mean, look at the sweep of yesterday. I mean, how would you describe what we saw here in Philadelphia, Margie?

OMERO: Well, there was a lot of incredible energy and unity and more firepower in one night than I would argue the entire Republican Convention.


GONYEA: We saw a series of blockbuster speeches at the end of the night, Cory Booker, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, finally Bernie Sanders, that gave us a bit of a preview of what the campaign may look like.

GREENE: OK, well, Margie, you mentioned unity. That certainly was not what seemed to be happening as things started. And let's sort of go through the course of the day. This was all taking place at the Wells Fargo Center, which sits in this industrial area of Philadelphia. There were a bunch of food trucks outside the arena. And that's - as I was heading in, that's where I met Larry Rice (ph). He was working at Nick's Roast Beef.

And what's special about your roast beef?

LARRY RICE: It's slow-roasted, the au jus, which is the beef - we make with the beef drippings. It's slow-roasted and sliced thin and served on a nice roll with provolone or sharp provolone.

GREENE: So I'm standing with him right outside the arena where the convention was happening, also right nearby Philadelphia's baseball stadium and the football stadium as well.

Philly sports fans are known as the toughest, most loyal, I mean, they would never think of supporting another team. And inside here, I mean, the big theme is whether, you know, people on one team, Bernie Sanders', can come together with people on the Hillary Clinton team.

RICE: I think so. I think the Republicans are fractured. So I think the Democrats is a time to pull together and be one and unity. And hopefully, you know, as a Democrat, I hope they come through.

GREENE: So we're inside the arena now. And the party does not exactly sound unified at the moment, a good number of boos coming from Bernie Sanders supporters. Now, we met one of the people who was booing just outside the convention space, Susie Talevski. She's a lawyer and a delegate from Indiana.

So we should sort of buckle our seatbelts for quite a week? I mean, this is not going to be a unified party?

SUSIE TALEVSKI: This will be a bumpy ride for the Democrats.


TALEVSKI: The purpose of this convention is for the Democratic Party to choose the most electable candidate that will win in November. It's not Bernie's choice or Hillary's choice. It's the delegates' choice. Bernie Sanders cannot control us. It's not just us listening to him. He needs to listen to us also. Bernie Sanders wanted a political revolution. Guess what? He's got one.

GREENE: All right, I'm going to let my colleague Mara Liasson describe how things changed during the course of the day.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: It wasn't the way the Democrats wanted their convention to start, with Bernie Sanders supporters in an uproar over 20,000 hacked emails, some of which showed DNC officials clearly favoring Clinton and dissing Sanders. Party chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was booed at her own Florida delegation breakfast. And within a few hours, she had stepped down altogether.

Even Sanders was booed by his supporters when he told them it was time to unite behind Clinton. And on the floor of the convention, despite a plea from Sanders not to protest, his delegates booed loudly every time Clinton's name was mentioned. But by the evening, the mood seemed to be shifting. Comedian Sarah Silverman confronted the Democrats' problem directly.


SARAH SILVERMAN: I am proud to be a part of Bernie's movement. And a vital part of that movement is making absolutely sure that Hillary Clinton is our next president of the United States.

LIASSON: Lots of cheering and plenty of boos for that one. But then, Silverman grabbed the bros by the horns.


SILVERMAN: Can I just say to the Bernie or bust people, you're being ridiculous.

LIASSON: First lady Michelle Obama, one of the most popular figures in the party, provided a contrast with Trump's convention with remarks that were pointed but also uplifting when she described how she and her husband raised their daughters.


MICHELLE OBAMA: How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level. No, our motto is when they go low, we go high.

LIASSON: Mrs. Obama was trying to rise above the tone that was set at the Republican Convention in Cleveland and for much of the day in Philadelphia. She also tried to link Hillary Clinton's historic candidacy with the groundbreaking legacy of her husband's presidency.


OBAMA: I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.


OBAMA: And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.

LIASSON: The First Lady turned out to be the most powerful character witness for the Democratic nominee.


OBAMA: When she didn't win the nomination eight years ago, she didn't get angry or disillusioned. Hillary did not pack up and go home because as a true public servant, Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments.

LIASSON: That was also a message aimed at disgruntled Sanders supporters. Michelle Obama didn't mention Trump's name, but Elizabeth Warren did. Warren played the role she's chosen for this campaign, as Donald Trump's tormentor.


ELIZABETH WARREN: Trump's entire campaign is just one more late-night Trump infomercial. Hand over your money, your jobs, your children's future and the great Trump hot air machine will reveal all the answers. And for one low, low price, he'll even throw in a goofy hat.

LIASSON: Warren was the keynote speaker. But the biggest reception of the night was reserved for Bernie Sanders, who had 46 percent of the delegates in Philadelphia. He got a full five-minute ovation when he took the stage.




SANDERS: Thank you.

LIASSON: All day, Democrats were wondering about Sanders, whether he would support Clinton strongly. Last night, he did.


SANDERS: Based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.

LIASSON: Sanders said it's no secret that he and Clinton disagreed on many issues. But he said the platform the two campaigns negotiated was the most progressive in Democratic Party history. He said now it's time to implement that platform with a Hillary Clinton presidency and that he would do everything he can to make that happen.


SANDERS: Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president. And I am proud to stand with her tonight. Thank you all very much.

LIASSON: Sanders was heartfelt and enthusiastic. And his speech conveyed the message Democrats had struggled to send all day, unity.

GREENE: All right, that's NPR's Mara Liasson. I'm with NPR's Don Gonyea and Democratic pollster Margie Omero. And, Margie, listening to all of that, what does all of it tell us about the Democratic Party at this moment?

OMERO: Well, in a clear contrast with the Republican message that's being put out at their convention, Democrats were a unified, warm, inclusive, optimistic...

GREENE: Later unified. I mean, those loud boos are telling in a way that they...

OMERO: Energetic, maybe.


OMERO: (Laughter) They were, you know, sure, boos are unpleasant. But ultimately, you had folks here who had some - who wanted to discuss some policy disagreements. And they were upset about the outcome of the primary. And they wanted their voices heard. But in the end, listening to those speeches, it was very powerful and it really overtook the whole arena.

And it really showed Democrats to be optimistic and also aware of the challenges we face as a country.

GREENE: Don Gonyea, I mean, you've spent a lot of time with the Donald Trump campaign. I mean, could some of those clips with the boos, I mean, be something that Trump will have in his artillery as we go forward?

GONYEA: Oh, it's absolutely fodder. And he was tweeting about it last night over the course of the evening.

GREENE: Basically pointing out that this party is fractured, I mean, in his mind.

GONYEA: Yes, yes.

GREENE: And he's also been trying to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters as well, which is interesting.

GONYEA: He certainly has. And what we saw yesterday was the tension in the morning. We knew there'd be tension. But for a while, it felt like the wheels were going to fall off. And then there was this kind of - we got to the prime time and Senator Al Franken did kind of a comedic turn, something he doesn't usually do, Sarah Silverman, as Mara talked about, then came Paul Simon, OK?

He sang "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." I am not saying that "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" calmed everything down last night. But there was kind of a before and after. Then we got to the main primetime speeches, and it became the party, Margie, that you're describing.

GREENE: And I guess we're going to be listening tonight. We'll be talking throughout the show with both of you about where the convention goes from here. The theme tonight, fights of her life. The party is planning to bring up speakers and talk about some of the difficult moments in Hillary Clinton's life. And former President Bill Clinton will be taking the stage.

Democratic pollster Margie Omero, NPR's Don Gonyea, stay with us. We're going to be talking about what we expect to hear this evening as the week goes on. Thank you both.

GONYEA: All right.

OMERO: Thank you.

GREENE: And there's some Paul Simon from last night as we (laughter) finish up this segment.


PAUL SIMON: (Singing) Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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