Here Come the Dems
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Perhaps the best line of the first night of the convention was Sarah Silverman’s off-script remark to the Sanders purists that they “…were being ridiculous”. Silverman did not deliver the resounding charge of Michelle Obama or the rabid attack of Elizabeth Warren, but she certainly cut to the chase. If Hillary is going to defeat Trump then all the craziness and anger must disappear. The Bernie or Bust folks must get on board the Clinton campaign and stop being angry.
Not to minimize the gripes and legitimate disappointment that Bernie’s troops feel, but if they do not shape up fast and put this behind them when they leave Philadelphia, then Hillary will have very serious internal as well external challenges to address. Sanders said it last night as well without the sarcasm. He now needs to get his supporters and his organization on board. Sanders himself must do some serious—but selective—stumping with and for Clinton. Like Obama, Bernie can move some crowds; but only the President–as well as former President Clinton–can truly get the African-Americans to make sure they are registered and then turn out.
Similarly, Hillary needs not only Latino support in the polls but dramatic increases in registration especially in the key swing states. Ninety percent of Hispanics may support her in the polls but unless this is reflected in increased Hispanic turnout it will useless. Here too, Clinton will need Latino surrogates going into the communities and reassuring citizens that it is OK –and their right—to register to vote.
The Debbie Wasserman-Schultz flap needs to be the last snafu of the campaign. Bernie cannot revel in his succeeding—helped by WikiLeaks–to oust her as the Chair of the Democratic National Committee right on the eve of the convention. If he does not stop “the I told you so’s” and/or there are more skeletons yet to emerge, then Hillary will be spending the entire campaign in a damage control mode. Rarely has party unity been more needed for the Democrats to successfully go forward. As for substance, Clinton must be in top form in her acceptance speech; place her program on the table; and only then march off after Trump. The Clinton team needs to understand that it appears that the 2016 election will not be like any other modern presidential election.
Clinton also has two critical questions to decide. First, when Trumps attacks her with ugly smears and personal asides will she counter in kind—ill advised—or reply with substantive demands from him. Second, Hillary cannot let him rile her especially in the debates. Like Hubert Humphrey she needs to be a “ happy warrior”. She needs to ride her own likely post-convention bump postively all the way to November.