DNC protesters' motives are suspect. Want dialogue? Remove the duct tape.

On the second day of the Democratic National Convention, several of my colleagues and I were kept out of the media tents because too many alleged supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders were trying to get in.

I call them “alleged” supporters because after observing them close-up and talking to a few of the most vocal protesters, I seriously doubt that they all were Democrats or even cared all that much whether Sanders won.

If you were watching Monday night, you will recall that ill-mannered voices from the #BernieOrBust movement disrupted the Philadelphia convention’s otherwise flawless opening with boos and catcalls whenever anybody, including first lady Michelle Obama and Sanders himself, mentioned Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s name.

“Bernie’s peeps turn into Hillary boo birds,” read a New York Post headline.

But Tuesday night’s program went off as planned, right up to its highlights, notably a speech by Bill Clinton in support of his wife, who could make him the nation’s first “first dude.” This was followed by Alicia Keys’ moving rendition of her feminist anthem, “Superwoman,” a video montage of all the nation’s presidents, ending with breaking glass and a live shot of Hillary Clinton, smiling in New York — symbolizing her breaking of a glass ceiling into which she, so far, has put only dents.

And no more boo birds worth discussing. What made a big difference, delegates told me earlier, was stern discussions by some state party leaders and a reimposition of a two-word term I used to hear a lot but not much lately: party discipline.

That was not a problem in the Illinois delegation, I was assured by Dan Johnson, a Wilmette resident and progressive Chicago lobbyist committed to Sanders. He described pro-Bernie boo birds as self-destructive, “petulant children” who risked handing a victory to Republican nominee Donald Trump — and losing everything on the Sanders agenda that they hoped to gain.

Sanders lost the nomination, but he scored significant victories that can move his progressive cause ahead. Sanders, after all, had won seats on the platform committee, representatives who helped nudge the party into approving what is being touted as the “most progressive” Democratic Party platform in history.

Adopted Monday, it included such goodies as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and free community college. Sanders also reminded us in his Monday speech that the Sanders campaign’s success had pushed Clinton to the left. She had agreed to push for free college tuition for households that make less than $125,000 a year, and she had reversed her previous support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty, which populists on the left and right call a job exporter.

Putting aside such nagging questions as how these benefits would be funded, they are clear victories for the party’s left wing.

Still the busters were not satisfied. After I walked away from Johnson and the arena where the convention was held, I ran into a march and sit-in by hard-line pro-Bernie protesters who were marching ahead of me into the media tents until police blocked most of them from getting inside.

The protesters were mostly young and, judging by their chants, included some veterans of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“This is what democracy looks like,” they chanted.

No, said I, this is what a disruptive mob scene looks like. I like constructive dialogue, but it is hard to have dialogue with people who wear duct tape over their mouths to symbolize how they supposedly have been silenced.

Sanders’ die-hard supporters need to take “yes” for an answer. They didn’t get all they want, but they moved the ideological ball down the field for somebody else to eventually take across the goal line.

Like Barry Goldwater, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other failed candidates of the past, they fell short of their ultimate goal but succeeded in preparing the way for others — like Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama — who eventually could take their ideas into the White House. That is what democracy looks like.

I began to question whether these folks were real big-D Democrats with a sense of loyalty to the party and its platform. Or were they merely self-centered, my-way-or-the-highway radicals who found in the Sanders campaign a handy platform from which to voice their frustrations with the world.

It takes all kinds to make a coalition, it is said. But it helps if all the members in the coalition believe in the same cause.

Clarence Page, a member of the Tribune Editorial Board, blogs at www.chicagotribune.com/pagespage.


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