- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — Hours after Hillary Clinton gave her speech Thursday accepting the Democratic presidential nomination and capping the national convention, thousands in the rank and file planned to quit the party in a #DemExit protest.

That is not the show of party unity Democratic officials hoped for coming out of the four-day convention, where they went to great lengths to quiet disgruntled supporters of Sen. Bernard Sanders and present an image of solidarity for the race against Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“It’s a dog-and-pony show,” Seamus Berkeley, a Sanders delegate from New Mexico, said of the convention. “They’re shutting opposition down and making it look like everyone is falling in line.”

From concerns over her environmental policy to the extent of her commitment to taxpayer-funded health care to her murky stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, Mrs. Clinton has not overcome the doubts of a number of Sanders delegates and supporters at the convention.

“I think she has work to do, and I think the party has some work to do to convince us that not only are they going to live up to that platform the party passed, but that they’ll work with us,” said Donna Smith, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.

Rose Watson, 61, one of 200 Sanders volunteers credentialed for the convention, said they all were shut out after the first day.

The first day was when Mr. Sanders addressed the convention and party officials handed out signs for the audience to wave that said, “Stronger together.”

“If we’re so strong together, then why not let us back in the room?” said Ms. Watson, who plans to switch her registration from Democrat to independent.

Sanders backers were also stymied in their attempts to derail the nomination of vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, angered by party officials’ clampdown on signs of protest within the convention hall and enraged by leaked emails in recent days showing that party officials conspired against Mr. Sanders’ campaign.

Ms. Watson said she would join a large contingent of Mr. Sanders’ delegates and supporters at the convention in what they have dubbed #DemExit — a Twitter campaign that has been masterfully promoted by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

Ms. Stein aggressively wooed Sanders supporters during the convention, and many pro-Sanders demonstrators outside the convention and delegates inside the Wells Fargo Arena said they will vote for Ms. Stein in November.

Still, the Democratic faithful insist that Mrs. Clinton is on stronger footing after the convention and are optimistic that the party will coalesce behind her.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” said North Carolina delegate Marc Friedland.

He anticipated that the Clinton campaign would make a concerted effort to reach out to Mr. Sanders’ supporters. But he also said that the importance of party unity was often overemphasized in the media.

“We don’t want to leave anyone on the sidelines, but we’re not going to let them drag us backward,” he said.

Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said top-notch speeches from President Obama and other prominent Democratic leaders brought the party together at the convention. He predicted that Mrs. Clinton would get a bounce after Philadelphia.

“The difference between this convention and the Republican convention is that we have had really heavyweight speakers,” he said. “I noticed here that the mood got better every day, and its largely because of the speakers.”

Democratic consultant Craig Varoga agreed.

“Monday was Bernie Sanders’ night and everyone appropriately credited him for his great organizing, his victories and the fact that he generated millions of new voters,” he said. “The rest of the week has gone a long way to uniting everyone in the party in defeating Trump this November.”

Mr. Trump also experienced dissent within the party at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, especially from rival Sen. Ted Cruz, who refused to endorse him during a prime-time speech.

However, the rift among Republicans did not result in massive party defections.

The Clinton campaign mostly succeeded in putting on a show of unity. The outbursts from Sanders supporters were kept to a minimum after the first day. Mr. Sanders helped clear the way Tuesday to Mrs. Clinton’s uncontested nomination. Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden and vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine gave rousing speeches Wednesday. And Mrs. Clinton’s speech Thursday launched her into the general election race.

Democrats also got encouraging news in recent polls.

A Pew Research Center survey this month found that 85 percent of Mr. Sanders’ supporters intend to vote for Mrs. Clinton, with 9 percent switching to Mr. Trump and 6 percent unsure whom they will back in November.

But Sanders supporters were skeptical of the polling and estimated that the number of defections among their ranks may be closer to 50 percent.

“They need to be convinced, and Hillary has her work cut out for her to earn their votes,” said Chuck Pennacchio, a Sanders delegate to the convention from Pennsylvania.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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