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Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders waves as he tours the Wells Fargo Center during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016.  (Photo: Mark J. Terrill / AP)

DNC Betrayed Bernie Sanders and the Rest of America

Dahleen Glanton

Bernie Sanders' supporters have a right to be angry.

The leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee apparently confirmed what they have said all along — that the political system was rigged against their candidate in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Top Democrats essentially dismissed Sanders as a viable candidate during the primaries, attempted to undermine him with voters and even took steps to derail his campaign, according to hacked emails that were recently made public by WikiLeaks.

In doing so, Democrats tarnished the electoral process and alienated a large constituency of voters that they will need to help lift Clinton to victory in November.

In other words, the Democrats created a mess. And they are turning to Sanders — the very one they betrayed — to come in and clean it up.

Sanders dutifully took the stage on opening night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday in Philadelphia and, in effect, told his supporters not to harbor any ill feelings over being stabbed in the back. He warned them against getting sidetracked and urged them to keep their eyes on the bigger issue — defeating Republican challenger Donald Trump in November.

The Democrats gather in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention to officially nominate Hillary Clinton for president. The event begins July 25, 2016, and ends July 28.

If this were a typical presidential election, Democrats would pout for a day or two and then join hands for a partisan rendition of "Kumbayah." But there's nothing ordinary about this year's race. Voters are splintered over ideology and they have made steadfast decisions about whether to fall in line behind establishment candidates or take a chance with someone who refused to toe the party line.

Long before the primaries ended, Clinton had tried to open the door to Sanders' supporters. Recently, Sanders even reached out and gave them his OK to switch sides. But just as some were about to take their first cautious step, the DNC walked up and slammed the door shut.

Many of Sanders' supporters are millennials, 18- to 29-year-olds who are dipping their feet into the political cesspool for the first time. For the most part, they are idealistic dreamers who believe that things such as basic health insurance and free college education are rights for all Americans.

Though vocal and demanding, they are in some ways fickle and vulnerable. They aren't timid about saying what they want, but no one is sure whether they can be counted on to show up at the polls. Four years ago, Barack Obama won 60 percent of their vote in his re-election. That was 6 percent fewer than voted for him in 2008.

Still, it is a group that neither Clinton nor the Democratic Party can afford to alienate. And in betraying Sanders, the DNC also betrayed them.

The Democrats' dirty laundry couldn't have been pulled out of the hamper at a worse time. They were just about to step onto the stage in Philadelphia and try to prove to the country that they are more civilized than the Republicans whom Americans witnessed last week in Cleveland.

Instead, the email controversy has contributed to suspicion and mistrust many voters already had toward Clinton. The good news, though, is they dislike Trump even more.

It's unlikely Sanders supporters will switch courses and go all the way over to the other side. But this is the sort of thing that could make some voters stay home in November.

And that's what Trump is counting on.

This year, with so many American values at stake, voters cannot afford to allow disappointment and anger to cloud their view.

Sanders' supporters should be proud of what they accomplished in the primaries. With their support, Sanders was able to push Democrats to adopt the most progressive platform in recent history.

Democrats have a firm commitment to increasing the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. They will fight to close private detention centers that profit from mass deportations of people in the country without legal permission, and the party is calling for an end to mass incarceration and racial profiling.

These are things that will dictate what Democrats will stand for in years to come. And they are drastically different from what Trump and the Republicans have to offer.

Under Trump, Republicans adopted the most extreme platform in decades, calling for building a wall along the Mexican border, denying basic civil rights to gays, lesbians and transgender people, as well as further blurring the line between religion and government.

These are the choices Sanders supporters have. The decision should not be that hard.

Either they can follow the ideals they believe in, the ones that are closest to how they view the world, or they can follow Trump down a dangerous, deceptive path.

I'm betting that they will march in the streets of Philadelphia this week and vent their frustrations about the broken political system. And in November, they will opt for equality and fairness and for a country much better than the one Trump has to offer.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Dahleen Glanton

Dahleen Glanton is a metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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