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Our DNC 'Hunger Games' Moments Must Not Derail the Hard Work Ahead

Hillary Clinton waves with her running mate Tim Kaine at the Democratic convention’s grand finale. (Photo: Rick Wilking/Reuters)

It all seemed so surreal. The staging was nearly perfect, and the “No More Wars” chanting from many DNC delegates was nearly drowned out by chants of “USA” and “Hill-a-ry” from those charged with protecting the production.

There were despicable efforts by the DNC to silence dissent this week in Philadelphia, and there were moments of soaring courage, compassion and camaraderie too.  For me the absolute highlight of the DNC speeches was Rev. William Barber calling us all to rise to this moment.  In case no one noticed, his message could easily have been delivered if Bernie had been our nominee.  It was a powerful message that created some of the few precious moments of unity during a week when the DNC remained largely tone deaf to Bernie supporters and prepared to battle us rather than working to embrace us.


I was asked yesterday before the floor speeches if there was anything Hillary Clinton or her surrogates could do to persuade Bernie supporter to move to her side.  It did not surprise me that the suggestions I made were ignored in favor of following Rev. Barber’s impassioned speech with a march of militarism displayed on the DNC stage like nothing many of us could have expected.  As some of my Irish friends might say, I was gobsmacked.  The DNC and Hillary decided to follow a message of peace, compassion, courage, and the power of love with a message that celebrated the love of military power.  Until that moment, I think many were trying hard to listen for openings for pulling the Bernie and Hillary camps a bit closer.  And Rev. Barber was, well, inspired and masterful.

My heart sank.  Even as I listened for the chants I knew were coming – from both sides – I was disengaging from the celebration. I was immediately pivoted back to the issues that have driven Bernie supporters to work so hard over the past two and a half years.  For the remainder of the program, I felt like I was watching and listening to  some weird version of a  “Hunger Games” video or rally.  Competing chants blended the audio to sound like rising and falling waves of cheering.  The mainstream media focused on pre-arranged delegate interviews that knocked off Hillary talking points and camera pans of the crowd that carefully but quickly  snapped away from any image of dissent.  DNC reps in suits quickly sought to isolate those seen as agitators.  It was surreal.

Among the messages were the scattered references to Bernie supporters and gentle pleas to allow our votes to be earned.  But the actions of the DNC throughout the week toward Bernie’s delegates and supporter had already featured so many ridiculous and unnecessary controlling measures that those unity messages could not be trusted.  I would suggest that the DNC and the Hillary camp work quickly to truly engage the movement that lifted Bernie and its message of inclusion, compassion, attention to human rights and commitment to justice.

The work ahead to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president will be made more challenging if there is not real respect, serious respect shown for all those who cared enough to engage in this process.  These Bernie delegates and supporters each represent tens of thousands of likely voters who will stay engaged and very vocal in their communities – and disrespecting us in Philadelphia has now added to the burden that might have been lessened.

"The work ahead to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president will be made more challenging if there is not real respect, serious respect shown for all those who cared enough to engage in this process."Through the evening, I had such strange, mixed emotions.  I watched Bernie’s face as he listened to the commotion around him  in the arena.  I was fairly certain that at some points he was uncomfortable with the level of protest among his delegates and supporters.  While in his heart he knows the political revolution continues and is growing, he is also an elegant, classy U.S. Senator who has fought for us all in near isolation from any political party support for decades.  I know many dismiss the threat that is the Republican nominee Donald Trump, but Bernie does not.  I do not.

Then, in the midst of all this chaos came a brief text message from my daughter, Heather.  As the glass ceiling shattered and fell to the ground, my Heather knew I must be feeling intensely conflicted emotions and that I would be under fire from both sides.  Her message as Chelsea led Hillary to the stage at 10:28pm EDT on July 28, 2016,  was, "I wish I could hug you right now."  As my fellow Bernie supporters continued their vigilant protestations, I settled into just a moment of history with my own daughter.

I am so very grateful for that moment of the power of love for and between my daughter and myself.  Just for an instant, we could internalize a victory for all women.  Now, it is back to the real world where the real world issues that drove me and my organization, Progressive Democrats of America, to fight so hard for Bernie Sanders.  We are engaged in serious movement building and growth. There is power for we Bernie supporters through every avenue I have heard discussed, debated and cajoled this week in Philadelphia.  We need not select only one path to the power we seek to achieve our goals.  Inside and outside the Party, Bernie’s message goes forward.  Love will Trump hate, and Bernie will help us make sure of that.

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith
Donna Smith Donna Smith is the national chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign for Progressive Democrats of America.  She was featured in Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary, SiCKO.

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