Who or What Ended the ‘Bernie or Bust’ Revolt in Philadelphia?

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Democratic National Convention: Day One
Somehow it all calmed down as the convention went on. Photo: Joe Raedle

When people (I’m looking at you, Mark Halperin) get around to their ultra-insider accounts of the Democratic National Convention, one of the topics will be the brief period of dissension at its beginning, when it looked like a significant portion of Bernie Sanders supporters within the arena were just not going to go along with any unity gestures. Bernie himself was famously booed at a meeting of his delegates for telling them they had to support Hillary Clinton in the end.

But by the end of the first day of the convention, or early on the second day at the latest, it had all, if you’ll excuse the expression, Berned out. Both Clinton and Tim Kaine were nominated by acclamation, and the increasingly ragged protests became pretty much isolated to the large and raucous California delegation.

So whodunit?

The electronic-media folks covering the convention seemed inclined to give the fire-extinguisher award to Michelle Obama. And without question, from a ticktock point of view her well-wrought and very positively received speech interrupted the series of remarks in which any mention of Hillary Clinton aroused Bernie’s Boo Birds.

But they might have resumed had not FLOTUS been immediately followed by progressive icon Elizabeth Warren, who seemed emboldened to say HRC’s name as often as possible, and then, of course, by Sanders himself, who eased the transition for his followers by basically grafting a few words of praise for Clinton onto the stock speech they had cheered so often.

Aside from his Monday night speech, Sanders also made the inevitable motion to nominate HRC by acclamation at the end of the Tuesday roll-call vote. Had it come from anyone else, more audible “nays” might have leaked into the national consciousness.

The Sanders whipping operation deserves some kudos for working the delegates, supported by text messages from the candidate asking them not to make protests on his behalf. And Sarah Silverman probably deserves mention as a conspicuous part of that whipping operation with her dressing down of the Bernie or Bust crowd for “being ridiculous” from the podium.

But in the end, it may have been the behind-the-scenes coordination between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns that really sealed the deal. The rapid dispatching of Debbie Wasserman Schultz from the chairmanship of the DNC, and then from her intended role of gaveling in the convention, helped staunch the bloodshed over the DNC emails. Later on, allowing the full roll call of the states to go forward, fully recording Bernie’s delegate haul, was clearly important to Sanders supporters; the Clinton and convention ops had to go along with that.  Many pro-Clinton delegations went out of their way to announce the Sanders vote in a respectful way; that could not have hurt.  If you compare how Ted Cruz and his supporters were treated in Cleveland, it becomes obvious the overseers of the Democratic convention were patient and refused to overreact to the early problems. And it paid off when not only Clinton but one of the original generators of heart-bern, Tim Kaine, was nominated by acclamation. By contrast, Republicans did not dare seek to entertain a motion to nominate Trump by acclamation.

There’s inevitably, however, a purely human factor that helped quench the Bern, as noted by Clare Foran for The Atlantic:

Despite threats of protest from Sanders supporters against Tim Kaine, Clinton’s vice-presidential candidate, there was no revolt when the Virginia senator took the stage on Wednesday. As Angie Aker, a Sanders delegate, put it on Tuesday evening inside the arena as she held a sign that read, “Silenced by Her,” above her head: “It’s really hard to maintain sustained outrage. It’s just tiring.”

Revolutions may live on, but revolutionaries sometimes need a break.