Scandal and protests at Democratic Party confab in Philadelphia

Scandal rocks Democratic Party truce on eve of confab

Michael Mathes,AFP, July 25, 2016


Philadelphia (AFP) – US Democrats scrambled to contain damaging revelations of an insider effort to hobble Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, with the party boss abruptly announcing her resignation on the eve of the convention to officially nominate Hillary Clinton.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she would step down at the end of the convention, a move that aimed to put an end to the scandal threatening an uneasy truce within the fractured party.

Thousands of Democratic delegates were converging on Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love,” to elevate Clinton as the party’s nominee who will battle Republican Donald Trump in the November election.

After a hard-fought primary campaign, the party had been heading to the Democratic National Convention seeming far more unified than the Republicans, whose fissures were laid bare last week as they confirmed brash billionaire Trump as their flagbearer.

Now the Democrats are struggling with the fallout from a scandal that threatened to mushroom into a major crisis just as the party was supposed to coalesce around its nominee.

A cache of leaked emails from Democratic Party leaders’ accounts includes at least two messages suggesting an insider effort to wound the upstart Sanders campaign that had competed with Clinton — including by seeking to present him as an atheist in deeply religious states.

Bowing to rapidly building pressure, Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee’s embattled chair, announced Sunday she was stepping down at the end of the convention.

In a statement, Wasserman Schultz described Clinton as “a friend I have always believed in and know will be a great president.”

Her announcement came after Sanders on Sunday repeated calls for her to go, with her leadership already under fire and impartiality called into question by the leaks.

Shortly after she resigned, Sanders said in a statement that Wasserman Schultz “has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party.”

He called for new leadership that would “always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”

Wasserman Schultz said she would still open and close the convention.

Despite the swirling political chaos, Sanders made clear he would not make an insurgent bid for the nomination.

“We’ve got to elect secretary Clinton,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

More emails are expected to be released in coming days, and in an ominous sign for the party, DNC interim chair Donna Brazile indicated the drama was not yet over.

“I don’t know the substance but I do know there are lots of stuff that we might have to apologize for and that’s why I say you got to own it, take full responsibility and work with the staff to create a different culture at the DNC,” she told CNN.

Brazile said there are likely “many thousands” of leaked emails still to come.

– ‘Outrageous’ –


Sanders and First Lady Michelle Obama headline day one of the Democratic convention which “gavels in” at 4:00 pm (2000 GMT) Monday.

Former president Bill Clinton is the star on Tuesday, while President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden take the stage Wednesday.

Although Sanders has publicly endorsed his former rival, many of his most fervent supporters are organizing protests in Philadelphia, with the largest expected on the convention’s opening day.

Several thousand protesters converged near Philadelphia’s City Hall on Sunday, many of them Sanders backers and people supporting renewable energy and anti-fracking efforts.

They vented frustration over a “rigged” party system that they said was aimed at ensuring Clinton would become the nominee.

Many in the Sanders camp have also voiced disappointment with Clinton’s choice of a center-left running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, and the email revelations only fueled the resentment.

“The emails just proved what we believed to begin with,” Dora Bouboulis of Vermont told AFP as she marched in a demonstration.

Trump pounced on the leaks as he tries to scoop up disaffected voters who feel Sanders — a self-described democratic socialist initially dismissed as a fringe candidate — was denied a fair shot at the nomination.

The provocative billionaire piled on after Sunday’s announcement.

“I always said that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was overrated. The Dems convention is cracking up,” he taunted on Twitter.

– ‘Corrupt system’ –

Clinton’s campaign meanwhile was pushing the notion that Russia was behind the email leaks, in an effort to help Trump win.

“Experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, took all these emails, and now are leaking them out through these websites,” campaign manager Robby Mook told ABC.

“It’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.”

There was a decidedly anti-Hillary sentiment among the activists flocking into Philadelphia, where police were intensifying security operations.

“Hillary is more of a warmonger than Trump!” yelled one woman as she passed out flyers.

Hundreds of the Sanders supporters gathered near City Hall chanted “Feel the Bern!” and “This is what democracy looks like!”

But others echoed Clinton’s message as she seeks to become the first female commander in chief, eight years after Obama made history as the nation’s first black president.

“We shouldn’t be fearful, we’re Americans,” delegate Patti Norkiewicz of Florida told AFP, after Trump, accepting his party’s nomination in Cleveland, offered a dark vision of a nation besieged by chaos and violence.

“We should be proud, united and we’re allowed to disagree,” she said.


10 highlights from political conventions hosted in Philadelphia

NCC Staff,National Constitution Center 3 hours ago


This week, the Democrats meet in Philadelphia for their national convention. And in its history as a convention host, the City of Brotherly Love has witnessed its share of controversy.

The 1900 convention introduced Teddy Roosevelt as VP

Philadelphia only trails Chicago as the most popular major-party convention spot in American history. The Windy City, with its central location, has hosted 26 conventions. (The last Chicago national convention was in 1996.) Philadelphia has hosted 13 gatherings. Baltimore also has hosted 13 major conventions (8 for the Democrats, 3 for the GOP, 2 for the Whigs), but the last time it hosted a big convention was in 1912.

Past conventions in Philadelphia included a cast of characters such as Zachary Taylor, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Dewey and the Know Nothings.

1848: The Whigs land in Philly

In 1848, the Whigs had their national convention at Philadelphia’s Chinese Museum. The Whig front-runner was an independent, General Zachary Taylor. He ran for the White House as a Whig, due partly to his dislike of outgoing President James K. Polk. Taylor prevailed over Henry Clay on the fourth ballot.

1856: The Know Nothings last convention

The Know Nothings were an anti-immigrant nativist party. The party doctrine stood firmly against Catholics and foreigners, and its members had some regional election success in the 1850s. Former President Millard Fillmore won a first ballot nomination, with President Andrew Jackson’s nephew, Andrew Donelson, as his running mate. The Know Nothings did poorly in the 1856 election and they soon disappeared as a political factor.

1856: Abraham Who?

The Republican Party gathered at Philadelphia’s Musical Fund Hall on Locust Street in June 1856 to pick its first presidential candidate. The dashing John Fremont defeated 71-year-old Supreme Court Justice John McLean on the first ballot. In the vice presidential voting, former New Jersey Senator William Dayton was the nominee, defeating a lesser-known ex-Whig from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln.

1866: The National Union Mid-Term Convention

This unusual gathering was called during the crucial 1866 election cycle, where the fate of Reconstruction was in the balance. The August 1866 meeting of the National Union Party’s remnants in Philadelphia was an attempt by President Andrew Johnson to unite conservative Republicans with Democrats, in his fight with the Radical Republicans. Emboldened by the convention, Johnson took his party leaders on a whirlwind speaking tour. The “Swing Around The Circle” tour would start near Philadelphia, but it led to disaster and huge losses in the election.

1872: Grant nominated and Republican Vice Presidential drama

There were three days of celebrations at the Academy of Music with no opposition to the nomination of President Ulysses S. Grant. However, there was considerable debate about incumbent Vice President Schuyler Colfax, who has dumped at the convention for Henry Wilson of Massachusetts as Grant’s running mate.

1900: Theodore Roosevelt takes the national stage

In June 1900, the Republicans gathered at a large temporary auditorium near Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River to approve a second term for William McKinley, who had defeated William Jennings Bryan four years earlier. But McKinley’s Vice President, Garret Hobart, had died in November 1899, and there was much speculation about the next vice presidential nominee. New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt got the VP nod when other New York politicians thought it would be a good move to get Teddy out of New York state politics.

1936: Roosevelt swings the Democrats to the left

The Democratic Party convention itself lasted five days. President Roosevelt was acclaimed as the nominee, without opposition, in a voice vote. Roosevelt and James Farley, the Democratic National Committee chair, convinced state party leaders to endorse a “majority vote” system for future Democratic conventions, which took power away from conservative southern states in the party.

1940: A businessman takes the Republican nomination

Wendell Willkie’s win is considered one of the great surprises in political convention history. Willkie had been considered a 3 percent favorite for the nomination just one month before the Philadelphia convention. A corporate attorney and utilities company president, Willkie had also fought with the FDR administration. And as Republican, Willkie gained a national following as he made speeches and earned the support of influential media figures who touted Willkie as a “fresh-faced” candidate. He won on the third ballot, defeating New York’s Thomas Dewey and Ohio’s Robert Taft.

1948: A Philadelphia triple header

Three of the four parties that fought in the bitter 1948 election met for their conventions in Philadelphia. The Republicans met first, without a preordained candidate. As in 1940 and 1944, New York Governor Thomas Dewey was the Republican convention favorite. Dewey was able to lock up the nomination again on the third ballot after the anti-Dewey coalition couldn’t agree on a compromise ticket. Then the Democrats nominated the incumbent President Harry Truman – who was expected to lose in the general election. The Democrats also approved a pro-Civil Rights platform, which led to the walkout of conservative southern Democrats. Finally, the Progressive Party, nominated Henry Wallace, the former Roosevelt Vice President who Truman had replaced on the 1944 ticket.

2000: A rather uneventful Republican convention

The GOP returned to Philadelphia for the first time since 1948 and the party’s convention lacked the drama of other national gatherings in the City of Brotherly Love. George W. Bush had won the primary campaign and selected Richard Cheney as his running mate. At the convention, the party promoted a message of compassionate conservatism and criticized the Clinton administration.

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