Tim Murphy, Pema Levy, and David CornJul. 25, 2016 2:55 PM
On Monday afternoon in a cavernous ballroom at the Philadelphia Convention Center, Bernie Sanders delivered a rousing speech to the nearly 1,900 delegates backing his late presidential bid. He hit all the thematic high points of his campaign: end big-money politics, restore the middle class, stop trade agreements, continue the revolution. And his supporters cheered wildly for their man. But when Sanders told them that they must now band together to defeat the "bigotry" of Donald Trump by electing Hillary Clinton, he was drowned out by a chorus of boos and anti-Clinton chants. Just hours before the official opening of the convention, Bernie Nation was not willing to follow Sanders' lead on this key point.
Sanders spoke after speeches by some of his biggest backers, including rapper Killer Mike, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, and actress Rosario Dawson. When Dawson mentioned Clinton, the room broke into loud boos. Dawson told the crowd that Clinton "is not a leader, she is a follower."
When he spoke, the senator from Vermont made the case that his presidential campaign had been a historic success and that it would continue to be a vehicle for political revolution. Volunteers handed out registration forms for Sanders supporters to hold organizing meetups in late August, to kick off a new step in this progressive crusade. Sanders received big cheers when he praised his supporters' contributions to what he called "by far the most progressive platform ever written" and an ovation when he noted the departure of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which he suggested might open up an opportunity for a more Bernie-friendly leadership in the party.
But when he tried to rally the delegates on behalf of Clinton, his audience became restless. "Immediately, right now, we have got to defeat Donald Trump, and we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine," Sanders said. His delegates shouted their protests and booed, forcing Sanders to pause before continuing in his remarks. Sanders called Trump a "bully and a demagogue" who "has made bigotry the core of his campaign." Still, the boos continued. "She does too!" delegates shouted. Others yelled, "Only you! Only you!"
Sanders declared that Trump poses a danger to the country's future, but he could not win over the crowd. "She has ruined communities!" one woman shouted. "She has ruined countries!" Sanders pointed out that Trump "does not respect the Constitution of the United States." Delegates kept on chanting: "Not with her!" and "We want Bernie!"
Sanders did not confront the booing delegates directly. He did not use this opportunity to address their anger and disappointment. He looked a bit surprised by the intensity of the Clinton opposition. He moved ahead with his prepared speech. After he was done—and the crowd had chanted, "Thank you, Bernie!"—Mother Jones asked Sanders three times what he thought about his delegates fiercely booing Clinton. He did not respond and quickly left the ballroom.
Afterward, Sanders delegates and supporters discussed the widespread booing of Clinton and whether they could follow Sanders' guidance. Several said they could not bring themselves to vote for her. "She's no better than Trump," said one delegate, who wouldn't provide her name.
Angela Valdes, a 37-year-old small-business owner from Portland, Oregon, who is a Sanders representative on the convention's credentials committee, said she was nowhere close to supporting Clinton. "It is all about honesty and integrity," Valdes said. "She has to come clean first." Come clean on what issues? "Oh," she remarked, "there are too many to list." But Valdes left open the possibility that Sanders might be able to persuade her to vote for Clinton by November.
Other delegates acknowledged that Sanders was right that Clinton must win at the end of the day but said that protests against her this week in Philadelphia were worthwhile. Such actions, Elizabeth Davis, a North Carolina delegate, said, would "keep it fresh" for Clinton that she needs Sanders' supporters to win.
So how much will Sanders do to persuade his delegates to follow his advice? In this appearance, he didn't go beyond his prepared remarks. And Aisha Dew, a whip for the North Carolina Sanders delegation, said she has not heard anything from the Sanders campaign regarding the actions delegates should take. Earlier in the day, at a Florida delegation breakfast, Sanders offered no instructions on how delegates might conduct themselves on the floor of the convention this week.
After Sanders departed the convention center, his campaign manager Jeff Weaver remained as delegates milled about and wondered what would be next for them at the convention. What about the booing of Clinton? he was asked. "Oh," he said, with a tone of nonchalance, "people will come around."
Wasserman Schultz will step down at the end of the DNC in Philadelphia
Tim MurphyJul. 24, 2016 4:27 PM
Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced Sunday afternoon that she would resign her position following the end of the party's quadrennial convention this week in Philadelphia.
The Florida congresswoman's decision came just days after WikiLeaks published a trove of internal DNC emails, including one in which a party official discussed pushing stories about Bernie Sanders' faith to damage the Vermont senator's chances in southern states.
The Sanders campaign, and many of his supporters, had long held a grudge against Wasserman Schultz, accusing her and the DNC of favoring former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in various ways throughout the primary. But in her five years at the helm, Wasserman Schultz had often clashed with other party leaders. In 2014, Politicoreported that her interactions with President Barack Obama were limited to brief exchanges on the rope-line at fundraising events.
"I think he's committed political suicide last night."
Tim MurphyJul. 21, 2016 7:17 PM
Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson was one of Ted Cruz's biggest boosters during the primary: He starred in an ad in full hunting cammo and later stumped for the Texas senator, Bible in hand, calling Cruz a "Godly" man who could help the United States avoid becoming "hell on Earth." (Cruz, for his part, joked that Robertson would be his Ambassador to the United Nations.) But Robertson eventually warmed to Donald Trump—and following Cruz's incendiary speech to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, told Cruz to suck it up already. "Give me a break, Ted—go ahead and endorse," he said on Fox and Friends.
Robertson is not speaking at the convention, but he came to Cleveland to host a screening of his new documentary, Torchbearer, which he filmed with the conservative production company Citizens United (of Citizens United fame). In the movie, Robertson, a staunch Christian conservative, travels to famous historical sites around the world—Athens, Rome, Paris, Auschwitz—and details the terrible things that happen when people reject Christianity.
"He could have become a Supreme Court judge. Trump would probably have nominated him!"
After the screening at a downtown theater on Thursday, Republicans munched on spring rolls and sliders as they waited for a chance to grab a photo with the sunglasses-sporting Robertson. Delegates and conservative activists—including some die-hard Cruz supporters—knocked the Texan for stealing the stage and dividing the party, and they chided the nominee, Donald Trump, for letting it happen.
"I was disappointed," said Scott Hall of Georgia, a Cruz supporter during the primary. "This is about America and the Supreme Court justices and he either believes in the Constitution or he doesn't, and by not fully supporting what the party believes in my mind he hurt the party. And I think that's why the crowd felt exactly the same way—if he didn't intend to support the party he should have stayed home."
Hugo Chavez-Rey, a Colorado delegate who supported Cruz during the primary, called the speech "a little on the selfish side" and "petty." "He could have left the hall a hero and instead he fell flat on his face," he said. "I think his political career is over."
Colorado delegate Brita Horn was a vocal critic of the way the RNC blocked a push for a roll-call vote on the rules of the convention. But watching the Monday speeches of mothers whose sons had died in Benghazi changed her thinking about the election. Once a Cruz supporter, she now believed it was essential to get behind Trump. "I think [Cruz] was looking for that moment that was gonna make a change for him in four years, and I think he was too raw to be on stage," she said. "He was too emotionally raw."
What's more, Horn felt that Cruz had abandoned the fight against Trump when it might actually have made a difference. "He was the general on our field and he left the field, and left us standing there without a leader," she said. "We have to go to the next battle."
"I think he cooked his goose," Sherry Dooley, a Colorado alternate delegate who backed Trump from the start, said of Cruz. "He could have become a Supreme Court judge. Trump would probably have nominated him!"
Not all the moviegoers were ready to bury the Texas senator. Some wore Cruz pins on their shirts and talked openly of voting third-party unless, as the senator urged, Trump shifted his message to one more tolerable for conservatives. "I don't see how you could support somebody that's saying that you're a lyin' cheatin'—why would you lend your endorsement?," said Colorado delegate Bradley Barker, who has not decided who he'll support in November. "Cruz did agree to support the nominee. That does not mean he has to come out in a strong endorsement. He supported the nominee in the speech last night—if the nominee does actually support the Republican principles."
Anita Stapleton, a Washington state delegate, was wearing a white "Cruz Country" pin an an alternate's badge—she'd given her delegate floor pass to someone else because she wasn't in the mood for celebrating. "He didn't get up there and lie and blow a bunch of smoke up Trump's you-know-what," she said of Cruz. "If he would have gone up there and said, 'America, I endorse Donald Trump, I'm gonna vote for him, and honor my pledge,' he'd be a liar. Then Trump can say he's Lying Ted." If she had to vote today, she said, it'd be for Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson.
But Georgia delegate Dianna Putnam summed up the pervasive attitude about Cruz in Cleveland. "I think he's committed political suicide last night, I really think he did," Putnam said. "I've heard the term 'Texas toast.' He's toasted."
On Thursday morning—after he was booed at the Republican convention the night before—a defiant Sen. Ted Cruz declared that he would not grovel "like a servile puppy" to endorse Donald Trump, the man who attacked his wife and father. In a heated breakfast meeting with members of the Texas GOP delegation in Cleveland, Cruz, who was soundly denounced by Trump and his allies after refusing to endorse Trump during a convention speech, reiterated a call for Republicans to vote their "conscience."
Before Cruz spoke, the mood among the Texas delegates who had gathered in the downtown Marriott was conciliatory. Trump "wasn't even my 8th or 10th choice," Rep. Jeb Hensarling told the room. "But you know what? He is my nominee, and I'm gonna give him 110 percent." The powerful House Financial Services chairman added, "It's time for all of us to put the primary in our past." (Outside, he characterized Cruz's speech more bluntly, telling reporters that Cruz had missed a "two-foot putt.")
When he addressed his home-state delegates, Cruz moved to deflect the criticism surrounding his prime-time address, which was received so poorly by the crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena that his wife had to be escorted out by security. He reminded delegates that the mob of television cameras and scribbling reporters in the back of the room were not their friends and were eager to sow discord within he conservative movement. And he promised not to say anything bad about Trump, noting that the two men had spoken three days earlier and that Trump knew well in advance that the speech would not amount to an endorsement. "They knew exactly what I was gonna say," Cruz said, adding, "I was perfectly happy to get on a plane and go home."
But when Cruz took questions from the audience, he left little doubt about his stance on Trump. Delegate after delegate stood up and posed a variation of the same question: Would Cruz get on board? Each time, Cruz pivoted to a different line of critique. He slammed Republicans who would "attack as a traitor anyone who would question our candidate." He talked up his stand as a principled conservative with the guts to speak his mind, poking at Trump critics who "turned tail and ran and didn't come to the convention."
When a questioner asked Cruz how Trump could bring "constitutionalists on board," Cruz pointed right back to his speech, calling it an "outline" designed to show Trump "how you win." In Cruz's view, bashing Hillary Clinton and talking endlessly about email servers—Cruz's convention speech was not to be interrupted by "lock her up!" chants—would not lead to victory in November. Trump, he insisted, has to talk about "freedom."
Throughout his session, Cruz was heckled by members of his own delegation. One man held up a homemade "Clinton-Cruz 2020" sign. When Cruz said he believed Republicans would indeed win in November, another shouted, "With or without you!" But Cruz used the hostile room to his advantage. Despite his earlier promise not to criticize Trump, he decried Trump supporters who at the convention have been "blindly chanting a name and yelling down dissenters." And he asked, "What does it say when you stand up and say 'vote your conscience' and rabid supporters of our nominee began screaming, 'What a horrible thing to say'?" He compared his own courageous decision to speak to a less-than-friendly room to Trump's attitude toward critics: "Can anyone imagine our nominee standing in front of voters answering questions like this?"
Cruz, who had previously signed the GOP pledge to support the eventual nominee, told the Texas delegates that he could point to the exact moment when Trump crossed a line: when the called Cruz's wife ugly in a tweet and then accused Cruz's father of possibly being involved in the Kennedy assassination. "That pledge," he said, "was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi that I'm gonna nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say, 'Thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.'"
When he finished making this point, he addressed a man in the back of the room who was mocking Cruz. "I will note, sir, that you might have a similar view if someone was attacking your wife—in fact I hope you would," Cruz said.
"This is politics," the man responded. "Your wife has got to get over it. This is politics."
"No," Cruz said, "this is not politics. I will tell the truth, I will not malign, I will not attack, I will not insult, I will tell the truth. This is not a game. It is not politics. Right and wrong matters."
In a primetime address to the Republican National Convention Wednesday, Ted Cruz comparedGOP efforts to restrict immigration to the civil rights movement's fight against Jim Crow laws. But the Texas senator was loudly booed by Donald Trump supporters in the convention hall when it became clear that he was not going to endorse the man who beat him for the Republican presidential nomination. Instead, Cruz encouraged his audience to "vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution."
"We deserve leaders who stand for principle, unite us all behind shared values, cast aside anger for love," Cruz said, in what many considered the first campaign speech of his likely 2020 presidential campaign. "That is the standard we should expect, from everybody."
Rather than directly back Trump—who mocked his wife Heidi's looks during the primary campaign and once suggested Cruz's dad was complicit in the Kennedy assassination—Cruz used his prime-time slot to outline his vision of freedom.
"Freedom means free speech, not politically correct safe spaces," he said, taking a shot at progressive college campus activists. He rattled off a series of other bullet points—religious freedom, the right to bear arms, school vouchers, and repealing Obamacare. Each of those freedoms are typical conservative talking points that the party's nominee rarely mentions. Although Cruz's speech focused less on social conservative issues than it might have in years past, he included a call for Washington to stay out of defining issues like marriage.
But Cruz made sure to endorse parts of Trump's platform as well. He cited the success of the United Kingdom's recent Brexit vote as indicative of a growing populist wave. "We deserve an immigration system that puts America first and, yes, builds a wall to keep us safe, that stops admitting ISIS terrorists as refugees," Cruz said. "We deserve trade policies that put the interests of American farmers and manufacturing jobs over the global interests funding the lobbyists." Cruz had never previously campaigned as an economic protectionist.
Even as he adopted aspects of the current nominee's most controversial proposals, Cruz was careful to couch his political fight in the context of historical struggles. "Together we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together we fought to eliminate Jim Crow laws," he said. "Those were fights for freedom, and so is this."