PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton‘s nominating convention opened with loud dissent, just like Donald Trump‘s last week. By forcing the resignation of the Democratic Party’s chairwoman, it had greater short-term effect.
The nature of Democratic dissent, and thus how the party was able to respond to it, was far different. And that suggests the Democratic dissidents will damage Clinton less than the Republican dissidents will damage Trump in November.
Among supporters of the “political revolution” Bernie Sanders championed, the anger and disappointment are real. Their suspicions of Democratic Party favoritism confirmed by stolen emails published by WikiLeaks, they booed chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz at her own state’s delegation meeting and forced her to surrender the convention gavel.
On Monday afternoon, they booed Sanders himself when he tried to make the case for unity behind Clinton. Some even repeated the “lock her up” chant that echoed through the GOP convention hall in Cleveland last week.
But the Democratic Party moved at every level to mollify and tamp down dissent. Sanders sent emails and texts to his supporters asking them as “a personal courtesy to me” not to disrupt the convention. The Clinton campaign placed comedian Sarah Silverman, a Sanders supporter, on stage to make the unity case. Especially popular with young people, she told others feeling the Bern “you’re being ridiculous” to keep up protests.
Michelle Obama, in the evening’s star turn, ripped Trump without mentioning his name by invoking the need for a positive example for children in the White House. “I’m with her,” the first lady declared of Clinton.
It was the kind of effort Republicans could not manage last week. Ted Cruz, the chief rival to Trump, refused to endorse him and urged conservatives to “vote your conscience.” The Trump campaign responded by rallying boos against Cruz as he stood on the convention stage.
The entertainers on stage for Republicans in Cleveland last week paled in comparison to the likes of Demi Lovato, Paul Simon and Silverman here. Nor could Trump call for support on the last two Republican presidential nominees (Mitt Romney and John McCain) or the last two Republican presidents (George H.W. Bush and son George W. Bush).
They all declined to attend Trump’s coronation. Ideological conservatives question Trump’s beliefs, and establishment Republicans question his fitness for office.
The next three months will test whether Clinton in fact can consolidate her party and command more unified support than Trump. So far, polling shows she has a slightly higher level of backing among Democrats than Trump has among Republicans.
Yet the race remains close. A new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll on Tuesday shows her with 46 percent support to Trump’s 45 percent.
The numbers precisely matched those of a week earlier, suggesting no convention bounce for Trump. With speeches the next three nights by former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and President Barack Obama — not to mention their own — Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine will see if they can create a bounce for themselves.