On the heels of a tumultuous Republican convention, Hillary Clinton arrives in Philadelphia eager to show off a forward-looking Democratic Party united behind her steady leadership. To do that, she must overcome lingering bitterness among supporters of defeated rival Bernie Sanders and clean up a resurgent political mess of the party’s own making.
The resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee made for a rocky start on Sunday, as the Florida congresswoman heeded Sanders’ longstanding call to leave as party chief. Her departure comes a few days after the publication of 19,000 hacked emails, which Sanders said confirmed his belief the national party played favorites for Clinton during the primary.
“The party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people,” Sanders said.
Wasserman Schultz’s abrupt departure was undoubtedly an effort to keep the Democrats’ gathering from devolving into the tumult that marred last week’s GOP meeting, when runner-up Ted Cruz pointedly and publicly refused to endorse nominee Donald Trump. As he demanded Wasserman Schultz’s resignation, Sanders made clear he wants to see Clinton in the White House.
“I’m going to do everything I can to defeat him, to elect Hillary Clinton and to keep focusing, keep focusing on the real issues facing the American people,” Sanders said on CNN.
Clinton and President Barack Obama both quickly praised the departed party chief, hoping to move past the ugliness and onto Monday’s launch of an optimistic celebration featuring high-powered elected officials and celebrities who will try to re-introduce Clinton to a general election audience.
Never one to miss an opportunity to poke at his rivals, Trump appeared to relish the Democratic chaos Sunday, writing on Twitter: “The Dems Convention is cracking up.” His campaign chief, Paul Manafort, went further and called on Clinton to drop out of the race altogether.
At the Republican convention, Trump cast himself as the law-and-order candidate in a nation suffering under crime and hobbled by immigration, sticking to the gloom-and-doom theme. As he accepted the Republican nomination, Trump said: “The legacy of Hillary Clinton is death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.”