Big show of unity at Democratic National Convention

The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia beginning to take shape for the Democratic National Convention which kicks off tomorrow.
The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia beginning to take shape for the Democratic National Convention which kicks off tomorrow.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSSE

Togetherness will be a prevailing theme of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week, when Mrs Hillary Clinton officially becomes the party's nominee after a protracted primary race.

Over four days, political leaders, singers, actors and ordinary Americans will converge on Philadelphia to show their support for Mrs Clinton, who could make history as the first female president of the United States this November.

Tomorrow, Mrs Clinton's former rival Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will take the stage, tackling the theme "united together". He is expected to speak about putting American families first.

Experts say Mr Sanders will play an important role in Philadelphia, especially in getting young voters - many of whom backed him during the primaries - to support Mrs Clinton instead.

 

Dr Melissa Miller, associate professor of political science at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said Mrs Clinton will also "try to speak to the issues that they care about passionately" including income inequality, Wall Street greed, and the cost of college tuition.

 

Unlike the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland last week, where notable Republicans such as Ohio Governor John Kasich and former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush chose not to make an appearance, DNC speakers will include President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, and former president Bill Clinton.

Apart from Mr Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren will also attempt to nudge progressive voters toward Mrs Clinton.

In a bid to draw young female voters, a host of millennial starlets are expected to speak, including America Ferrera from comedy series Ugly Betty and Chloe Grace Moretz from the movie Kick-Ass.

While the fiasco of the RNC with Mrs Melania Trump's plagiarism controversy and Texas Senator Ted Cruz's prime time non-endorsement of Mr Trump will take some pressure off the Democrats to produce a perfect convention, the messaging still has to be spot on, said experts.

"In many ways, the Democrats' goals are the same as the Republicans. They need to improve the public image of their nominee. The only good news for Hillary Clinton is that her historically high unfavourability ratings among voters are actually topped by Trump," said Dr Miller.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll shows Mr Trump's unfavourability stands at 57 per cent, while Mrs Clinton's is 54 per cent.

Softening Mrs Clinton's image will be key to winning over voters.

Dr Richard Benjamin Crosby, associate professor of English and rhetoric at Iowa State University, said Mrs Clinton and her acolytes will need to convince voters that she "has their best interests at heart, and that she has the capacity to protect those interests".

"They will likely do this by sharing humanising stories and tributes about Clinton's personal life. Naturally, they will also celebrate her experience and success as long-time public servant," he added.

Outside the Wells Fargo Center where the convention will be held, the city estimates 35,000 to 50,000 protesters each day, some of whom will be Mr Sanders' supporters holding out hope that he will still become the party's nominee.

In preparation for any unrest, the federal government has granted the city US$43 million (S$58 million) to cover security costs during the convention.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Big show of unity at Democratic National Convention'. Print Edition | Subscribe