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Sanders quiets 'Bernie or Bust' contingent with plea for unity

A vocal group of Bernie Sanders supporters repeatedly interrupted the Democratic National Convention — until the Vermont senator made his pitch for Hillary Clinton.

by Liz Fields
Jul 26 2016, 3:38am

Photo par John Locher/AP

On a night when every speaker at the Democratic National Convention called to unite the party behind Hillary Clinton, a vocal contingent of Bernie Sanders supporters repeatedly interrupted to disagree. Then the Vermont senator himself took the stage.

Sanders, who followed first lady Michelle Obama and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, was welcomed with loud cheers. It was a contrast to earlier in the day, when a number of his delegates jeered loudly at his urging to vote for Clinton. Early in his speech Monday night in Philadelphia, Sanders acknowledged the discontent.

"I understand that many people here in this convention hall and around the country are disappointed about the final results of the nominating process," Sanders said. "I think it's fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am."

Sanders delegates in the stands chanted, cheered, and even wept when, moments later, their candidate endorsed Clinton.

Sanders often reverted to key parts of his usual stump speech, which he delivered hundreds of times on the campaign trail. After saying "this election is not about, and has never been about, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders, or any of the other candidates," he pivoted to income inequality and the achievements of President Barack Obama. He then said the US needs leadership that will improve the lives of working families, children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor.

"By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that — based on her ideas and her leadership — Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States," he said. "The choice is not even close."

Most of the audience roared in approval, but a handful made their disagreement known.

The emotions of Sanders supporters were inflamed ahead of the convention by a Wikileaks email dump that included emails appearing to show Democratic officials favoring Clinton to be the party's nominee. While Warren, Obama, and the rest of the speakers tried to focus on Donald Trump, the "Bernie or Bust" crowd kept voicing its opposition to Clinton. Comedian Sarah Silverman addressed them directly at one point, telling them: "You're being ridiculous."

Outside the convention arena Monday, some undecided voters voiced their disappointment with both the party and the disunity that seemed to dominate the first day of the convention.

"I am really not happy with the party," said Leslie Harris, a retired educator from Dallas. "But what worries me about partisan politics is that people get so wrapped up in fighting for their team that they kind of forget the issues."

Sanders tried to assuage those concerns with his address, discussing Citizens United, regulation of Wall Street, the high cost of college tuition, climate change, LGBT rights, abortion, and more. But at the end, he brought the speech back to his relationship with Clinton, who he said he's known for 25 years.

He called Clinton "a fierce advocate for the rights of children" during her time in the Senate, and "a great first lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a first lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care." Sanders called for uniting the party and electing his former rival, saying he would "do everything I can to make that happen."

"Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president," he concluded, "and I am proud to stand with her here tonight."

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields