Posted by Kristin Mccarthy on July 26, 2016 in Blog

Ahlan wa sahlan Philadelphia! Your slightly rested and ready to go AAI staff arrived in Philadelphia to continue our coverage of the 2016 nominating conventions and to highlight the role Arab Americans are playing this election cycle. Keeping on theme with the Republican convention, Day 1 of #DemsInPhilly was punctuated by drama. However, there Democrats seemed to come through the other end of it by the end of the night thanks to many powerful speeches. Here's your Day 1 Dispatch.

Arab Americans at the Democratic Convention
  • AAI President Dr. James Zogby spoke at a panel, "Progressives for Palestine" that was hosted by our partners at the US Campaign to End the Occupation and the American Friends Service Committee. Watch the whole thing here.
  • INTERVIEW: Arab American Democrat - and Vice President of the Michigan State Democratic Party - Fay Beydoun shares her thoughts on this year's convention.
  • If you were watching the Convention last night, you might have seen Palestinian flags and materials being worn by delegates! Check out some of the photos here
--> Are you in Philly?! Join AAI today and tomorrow for 3 exciting events we are hosting! Learn more here.
On the Convention Floor

The Democrat's week-long party got off to a bad start when a batch of damning emails was released by a hacker proving that DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and senior staff members showed preference for Hillary Clinton's campaign, at the expense of Senator Sanders. After a battle to stay in her position, Rep. Wasserman Schultz ultimately was forced out of the Convention proceedings and resigned her position as Chairwoman.

But Wasserman Schultz's resignation didn't stave off boisterous interruptions on the Convention floor. When the convention officially began - around 4pm eastern - it was immediately apparent that a significant contingent of Bernie Sanders' supporters were not going to be silent in their defeat. Even Senator Sanders himself, who met with his elected delegates earlier in the day, wasn't able to unite all of his most diehard followers behind Hillary Clinton's nomination. There were several notable disruptions during the night, including unapologetic boo's by Bernie supporters, and the "No TPP" chanting that persisted through Rep. Elijah Cummings' powerful speech on race and unity.

The internal divisions between the Sanders and Hillary camps were indeed the definitive story out of last night's speeches. However, there was a lot of policy ground covered despite the rift. The long process of negotiating the Party's 2016 Platform ended in a whimper as the platform was presented and adopted last night without any minority amendments from the floor. The Party avoided a 2012 style controversy by not mentioning the platform's most divisive issues - including the TPP and Palestine - from the podium.

We found a lot of significant policy discussions embedded in the very personal speeches, like the ones by a young American whose parents are undocumented immigrants on the importance of immigration reform, a young woman with a disability on equal rights and access for all Americans, and the families of Americans who suffer(ed) from substance abuse, highlighting Hillary Clinton's plan for stopping the opoid addiction. On the issues AAI has been tracking for over a year now, we must applaud the focus of Senator Cory Booker's speech which touched on many of those issues (some of which other speakers also highlighted) like ending profiling, speaking out against anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry, and more. There was also repeated mention of the need to expand reform voting access and restore the Voting Rights Act to ensure all Americans are able to exercise their right to vote. As of yet, there has been no mention of foreign policy, but we are intently listening for it!

And then of course there was First Lady Michelle Obama, who by all accounts had the best speech of the night. Less about policy and more about vision, the First Lady dismantled Donald Trump's gloom and doom caricature of America by sharing her experience raising her two daughters in the White House, which was built by slaves.

The night ended with the much anticipated speech by Senator Bernie Sanders, which was notable for the very lengthy standing ovation and applause that greeted his walk onto the stage. The crowd camera caught many delegates in tears - and there were many chants from his supporters that openly defied the Senator's call to vote for Hillary Clinton in November. But overall, Sanders' speech was a compelling plea to his followers to support Hillary - not just because of who she is up against, but because of what she stands for. We will see if Bernie supporters fall in line with the Senator's call to unite behind the nominee as the week goes on.

Outside the Convention

The 100 degree weather and logistical nightmare that overtook Philadelphia might have made Day 1 a little unpleasant for delegates and city dwellers, but it certainly didn't stop protestors from showing up at the Convention center to make their voices heard. There were a 5 reported arrests, and a mass citation to about 50 Democracy Spring protestors outside the convention. We hope that's not because of the surveillance tactics that the Philly PD was reported to be deploying to keep the protests under control.

On the other side of the aisle, it was interesting for us to note how Republican nominee Donald Trump tweeted along with the convention last night. Check out his twitter profile for his quick takes on Senator Booker, Senator Warren, and the Bernie protestors. Or not.