Hillary Clinton must become the next US president, says Bernie Sanders

Former Democratic presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders cheered by supporters at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25.
Former Democratic presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders cheered by supporters at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25. PHOTO: REUTERS

PHILADELPHIA - Senator Bernie Sanders capped off a tumultuous first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) with a speech that urged his supporters to back Mrs Hillary Clinton as the party's presidential nominee, while also continuing to fuel his political revolution.

The senator, who received the loudest applause of the night, repeated his endorsement of Mrs Clinton, stressing that the choice between her and Republican nominee Donald Trump is clear.

"This election is about which candidates understand the real problems facing this country and has offered real solutions," he said. "Based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.

"Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her tonight," he added.

But Mr Sanders also made clear some of the divisions that his movement had created. 

He received loud cheers when he stressed that the political evolution was not over and he would continue to fight with them. 

And when he voiced his support of Mrs Clinton, the hall broke out into competing chants of  "Hillary! Hillary!" and "We want Bernie!"

It encapsulated the difficult day at the DNC. The convention got off to a rocky start on Monday local time (Tuesday Singapore time) as the kind of floor protests that plagued the Republican National Convention last week played out on the floor of the Democratic one.

Though outgoing party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz - who is resigning over a leaked e-mail scandal - did not make an appearance, the Sanders supporters remained restless. 

Representative Marcia Fudge, who was chairing proceedings, had to stop speaking on several occasions, and Sanders and Clinton supporters shouted competing chants.

The congresswoman even had to depart from her prepared texts to call for respect. 

"I intend to be respectful of you, and I want you to be respectful of me. We're all Democrats and we need to act like it!" she said.

Even before his own speech, Mr Sanders had tried to urge for calm, sending out a text message to supporters that called for unity.

"I ask you as a personal courtesy to me to not engage in any kind of protest on the floor. It's of utmost importance you explain this to your delegations," he wrote.

The call seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as nearly every single mention of Mrs Clinton's name was booed by certain section of the audience, even as her supporters - who formed a significant majority in the arena - upped efforts to drown them out.

Earlier in the day, Mr Sanders was also booed when he called on his supporters to back Mrs Clinton. 

The Democratic leadership also made its own last ditch attempts to ease tensions, sending out a statement to apologise to Mr Sanders over the e-mail revelations. The Democratic party had been thrown into disarray just before the national convention after a trove of leaked e-mails showed the party had not been neutral in its handling of the presidential contest between Mrs  Clinton and Mr Sanders.

In the arena, some protests also highlighted the divisions within the party on policy.  Some carrying signs against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal interrupted a speech by the party's platform chair with chants of "No TPP".

As with the Republicans a week ago, there were also contested voice votes to adopt the platform and rules for the party. But the rebellion appeared less organised this time and each motion passed easily.

In downtown Philadelphia, protests continued for a second day. At least a thousand Sanders supporters marched through the streets chanting: "Hell no DNC, we won't vote for Hillary".

 

The rebellion appeared to lose steam by the time the keynote speakers came on as the voices of the Clinton supporters grew. A group sitting in the section reserved for the California delegation continued the heckling and booing throughout. 

When actress Sarah Silverman, a Sanders supporter, told the dissenting group they were being "ridiculous", the rest of the arena broke out in loud prolonged cheers.

First Lady Michelle Obama also drew loud cheers from the crowd and her speech largely united them. 

Mrs Obama mixed attacks on Mr Trump with a strong endorsement of Mrs Clinton. A highlight of her speech was when she talked about the impact Mrs Clinton has had on her children.

"Because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters take for granted that  woman can be president," she said.

The first day of the Democratic convention featured a host of top political leaders like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, and stars like Demi Lovato, Paul Simon and Boyz II Men.