All Hell Breaks Loose at the Democratic Convention

A 30-step review of the mayhem in Philadelphia, and what Clinton’s convention says about the future of the American political system.

Gary Cameron / Reuters
  1. Hillary Clinton, her advisers, and their allies at the Democratic National Committee watched Donald Trump’s nominating convention in Cleveland with smug satisfaction.
  2. Team Trump had insulted Ohio’s governor, approved a Melania Trump speech that plagiarized Michelle Obama, lied about the plagiarism, and allowed Ted Cruz to expose party divisions in a prime-time speech.
  3. “Hey @Reince,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz tweeted GOP chairman Reince Priebus. “I’m in Cleveland if you need another chair to keep your convention in order.”
  4. Schultz reflected the Democratic establishment’s false sense of security. Headed to their convention in Philadelphia, Democrats felt more united than Republicans, better organized, and less vulnerable to the long-term disruption of a populist insurgency.
  5. All hell broke loose.
  6. WikiLeaks released 20,000 emails stolen from DNC computers, proof of the worst-kept secret in Democratic politics: The party worked against socialist-populist Bernie Sanders to ease Hillary Clinton’s path to the nomination. The FBI said it would investigate whether Russia hacked the DNC to influence the U.S. election.
  7. All hell broke loose.
  8. “Lock her up!” chanted Democratic activists in the streets of Philadelphia. These Sanders supporters carried signs and wore T-shirts that called for Clinton’s indictment, channeling those GOP delegates in Cleveland who drew rebukes for defying old rules of political decorum.
  9. Schultz cut a deal with the Clinton team to resign, effective upon the conclusion of the convention. She planned to open and close the gathering with remarks lauding her leadership.
  10. All hell broke loose.
  11. Addressing delegates from her home state of Florida, Shultz chastised an unruly crowd carrying signs reading “Division!” and “EMAILS.” She said, “We know that the voices in this room that are standing up and being disruptive, we know that is not the Florida we know.”
  12. “Shame! Shame! Shame!” crowd members chanted. Schultz scurried out of the room.
  13. Sanders himself tried to prevent a show of disunity on the convention floor, pleading with his supporters to back Clinton. Having promised his followers “a revolution,” he now fed them bitter pragmatism.  “Brothers and sisters,” Sanders said, “this is the real world that we live in.”
  14. All hell broke loose.
  15. While the streets filled with a sweaty mass of angry Sanders supporters—mostly young and white and disconnected from the political system—the Clinton team told Shultz she couldn’t address the convention.
  16. Sanders sent his supporters a text message, urging them not to protest on the convention floor.
  17. All hell broke loose.
  18. As the convention came to order, hundreds of Democrats protested outside. “No, no, DNC—we won’t vote for Hillary!”
  19. Inside, Cynthia Hale mentioned Clinton’s name during the opening prayer. Some delegates booed, others chanted for Sanders.
  20. There would be more protests.
  21. Eventually, Clinton likely will regain control of her convention. Like in Cleveland, the desire to defeat a hated enemy will overcome internal differences. The blues will line up against the reds, Wall Street will support both teams, Clinton will win in November, and the status quo will declare victory over change. Populist unrest will broaden and intensify.
  22. Or Trump will win. He won’t keep his promises, because he never does. He won’t make America any greater than it already is. He might make it worse. The status quo will declare victory over change. Populist unrest will broaden and intensify.
  23. Whether it’s Clinton or Trump, historians will note how a billionaire celebrity took over the GOP with an anti-trade, anti-immigration nativism, setting fire to the political playbook that guided campaigns for the last half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st.
  24. Today will be long remembered, too. Sanders couldn’t calm the churning of his supporters and, as in a mutiny aboard a pirate ship, the deckhands have seized control from the captain.
  25. This could be the start of something big inside the Democratic Party. What if, for instance, Sanders’s coalition banded together with Black Lives Matters to create Tea Party-like takeover of the Democratic Party?
  26. The American public has lost trust in virtually every social institution—schools, churches, businesses, charities, police, courts, and the media—because those entities have been slow to adapt to sweeping economic, demographic, and technological changes.
  27. People have witnessed disruption in the retail, entertainment, and financial industries—in virtually every institution except for government and politics. In an era of choice and technological efficiency, the American voter is given a binary choice and gridlocked government.
  28. Most Americans want something better than what the Democratic-Republican duopoly crams down their throats.
  29. They’re mad as hell and, as evidenced in Cleveland and Philadelphia, they’re just starting to realize how powerful they are. They don’t need to take it anymore.
  30. All hell is going to break loose.