Boos and booze: Sanders struggles to control supporters

Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA — Bernie Sanders’s campaign is struggling to rein in rowdy delegates who booed pro-Hillary Clinton speakers on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.

Sanders sent a message to campaign leaders and whips in the middle of the raucous floor proceedings on Monday asking them to settle down their caucuses, but it didn’t do the trick.

{mosads}“This is not going to be a process of the troops take orders,” said Norman Solomon, delegate and national coordinator for the Bernie Delegates Network.

Teva Gabis-Levine, a Sanders delegate and whip for the New Mexico delegation, said he refused to pass along Sanders’s request to soften the protests.

“In my capacity as whip I chose not to pass that information along,” he said.

Gabis-Levine said delegates questioned the “authenticity” of an email message from Sanders. When asked if delegates didn’t believe that it came directly from Sanders, he responded: “To an extent, yes.”

Democrats face a key moment on Tuesday night at a roll call vote in which they’ll officially make Clinton their nominee for president.

The two campaigns have been in talks about having Sanders be the one who officially nominates Clinton. CNN reported that Sanders wants his home-state delegation from Vermont to go last in the vote and put Clinton over the top.

Yet there are fears that things could turn ugly again if Sanders supporters loudly boo the nomination or disrupt the convention with provocative chants during the nationally televised proceedings.

Behind the scenes, Clinton and Sanders supporters continue to trade insults over what happened a night earlier, when even first lady Michelle Obama had to deal with at least one heckler.

One Clinton supporter went so far as to blame free-flowing alcohol for some of the trouble.

“It’s the California delegation and behind it was an open bar last night,” said David Goodfriend, a former Clinton administration aide.  

“Here’s what’s going on. Bernie-ites get hammered at the open bar, they come in here, and even when Elizabeth Warren is talking, they’re chanting over her,” he said. “So here’s my offer … California Bernie delegates: Stay sober during proceedings, and I’ll buy you a round of shots after.”

Karen Bernal, the co-representative of the California delegation, said there was only one drunken delegate and that person has been dealt with. 

She also said that the the California delegation has come to a consensus that they intend to express their support for Sanders in an unscripted manner but that they wouldn’t be disruptive.

“I don’t think we’ll see a similar scene today,” Bernal said. 

“The message that went back was about not saying things that would be overly provocative,” she continued. “That’s been noted. We understand what the theme of the day is and we want to respond accordingly and be able to support all of our brother and sister delegates who cast their votes for Bernie, but also to be respectful and show solidarity. You’ll see a very different vibe.”

The Clinton campaign has been careful not to criticize Sanders or his supporters so as not to inflame passions that are already running hot. 

“The more they press against the Sanders delegates, the more they’ll come dressed in Hillary outfits and then take it off and pull out the Bernie banners and all the rest of it,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

In his Monday night address, Sanders encouraged the delegates who are bound to him to enthusiastically show their support for his movement on the convention floor during the state-by-state vote on Tuesday to nominate Clinton.

But behind the scenes, the Sanders campaign has been urging delegates to draw back their protests.

At meetings and in private conversations, Sanders’s state leaders and campaign whips have been huddling with their delegations in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the events that marred the opening hours of the convention on Monday.

“We’re encouraging delegates to be respectful,” said Jacob Limon, Sanders’s Texas state director. “Holding signs is free speech and cheering and being positive and loud and excited about Sanders is what we came here for, but as the leader of a delegation, I won’t tolerate disrespect or profane attacks. We’ll be on the watch.”

The outcome of the roll call vote isn’t in question as Clinton won the primaries with room to spare. 

On Tuesday, the Clinton campaign seemed content to hope for the best and let the final tally speak for itself.

“We think it’s very important that everybody have a chance to vote and have their voice heard,” said spokeswoman Karen Finney.

“And then we’ll see what happens,” added communications directly Jennifer Palmieri. “It’s a democracy. We’ll see what happens.”

Tags Bernie Sanders democratic convention Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Michelle Obama

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video