What to watch for at Democratic National Convention

Democrats are gathering in Philadelphia for their party's convention from Monday to Thursday. It will feature current and past presidents, plenty of celebrities and a historic moment when Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman to accept the presidential nomination for a major party in the U.S.

Republicans had their turn in Cleveland, now the spotlight moves to Democrats in Philadelphia

Hillary Clinton greets supporters at a rally in New York on June 7 after clinching enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination over Senator Bernie Sanders. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

With the Republican convention now over, the spotlight shifts to the Democrats, who open their convention today in Philadelphia.

Over the next four days, delegates from every corner of the country will gather inside the Wells Fargo Center to hear from a lineup of speakers and watch Hillary Clinton accept the party's nomination, while protesters gather outside, demanding changes to their party's rules and showing support for Bernie Sanders.

Here are a few things to watch for in the coming days:


The city is expecting 35,000-50,000 protesters every day of the convention, with thousands of demonstrators already hitting the streets on Sunday. Designated protest spots have been created at FDR Park near the Wells Fargo Center to accommodate the demonstrators. The city will provide water and misting tents to help keep people cool and avoid medical emergencies.

Rally organizers were required to apply for permits: some were granted, others were not. Some protesters have told local media that they plan to march where they want, when they want, regardless of the rules.

Conflicts could arise if police crack down on unauthorized protests and if they enforce the no-camping restriction in FDR Park. Some protesters plan on sleeping there throughout the convention.

The city initially was going to ban marches during rush hour in the mornings and evenings but relented on that. The biggest group of protesters is expected to attend events in support of Sanders, the Vermont senator who ran against Clinton for the nomination.


Convention speeches put the prime-time television spotlight on speakers who may need no introduction to the country and on those who are relatively unknown.

President Barack Obama, for example, went to the 2004 convention as a candidate running for the U.S. Senate and had no national profile. He delivered an impressive keynote speech that helped put him on the political map.

Twelve years later, he will speak again at this year's convention, on Wednesday, as the outgoing president who hopes to pass the torch to his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Obama's wife, Michelle, will also speak, as will Vice-President Joe Biden.

Former president Bill Clinton at a campaign event for his wife Hillary Clinton in February. He will be among the speakers at the convention this week. (Javier Galeano/Reuters)

Other headlining speakers include Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, who will speak with her mother on Thursday, the final night of the convention.

One of the most anticipated speeches, however, will be by Bernie Sanders on Monday night. The arena will be filled with many of his supporters, who answered his call for a political revolution, and who are disappointed that it's Clinton, not him, accepting the nomination. With heavy hearts they will be happy to hear from him.

Party unity

Sanders took his time, but he finally endorsed Clinton at an event with her on July 12, about five weeks after she secured enough delegates to win the nomination. Sanders congratulated his former rival and said he will do everything he can to ensure she is elected in November.

It was a big step toward party unity after a competitive primary season. Clinton, grateful, made an appeal to Sanders supporters, asking them to join her campaign and telling them that if she's in the White House they will always have a seat at the table.

Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders wave to supporters during a rally in New Hampshire on July 12, when Sanders endorsed Clinton for the Democratic nomination. (Jim Cole/Associated Press)

Watch for a similar tone in Philadelphia. The convention will be an opportunity to put these words into action and for the party to really coalesce around Clinton. There are holdout Sanders supporters who are firmly anti-Clinton and still want to convince superdelegates at the convention to switch allegiance from her to him. The so-called Bernie or Bust supporters plan to protest outside the arena which could cast a shadow over the show of unity inside.

Also working against a show of unity, however, is the leak over the weekend of thousands of emails between top Democratic Party officials showing them privately scoffing at Sanders, expressing hostility toward him and denouncing him — despite publicly pledging to remain neutral in the Democratic primary contest. 

Sanders supporters have long argued the Democratic National Committee favoured Clinton over him and now feel like they have proof. On Sunday, embattled DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced she would step down at the end of the convention. Sanders has previously called for her resignation and did so again on Sunday.
Party unity is off to a somewhat rocky start.

Donald Trump

No, the Republican nominee won't be there, but his campaign will be, ready to respond to any and all attacks that might come from Clinton or other speakers. Trump's top campaign aide, Paul Manafort, said they plan to have a "robust operation" in Philadelphia. Trump's campaign isn't known for its organizational strength on the ground, so this will be a test and a chance for it to work out some kinks.

Clinton had a "counter-convention" in Cleveland, with Wasserman Schultz, members of Congress and other surrogates holding daily news conferences and calls with reporters. The campaign issued tons rapid-fire news releases. 

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made several appearances at his convention in Cleveland last week, including on opening night, when he introduced his wife Melania. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Clinton, and hatred toward her, loomed large over the Cleveland convention. Watch to see how much of a factor Trump is in Philadelphia. How many of the speakers will make the case against Trump rather than the case for Clinton?

Clinton's entry into history books

Never before has a woman accepted the Democratic nomination for president in the U.S. This will be a historic moment to watch.

When Clinton earned enough delegates in early June to secure the nomination, she remarked on the "milestone" and said the victory belonged to generations of women and men who had struggled to make it possible. Expect to hear more of that language this week.

Clinton has pushed back on Trump's accusation that she is playing "the woman card" to get elected, but she has spun that around and portrayed herself as a proud advocate for women.

Hollywood stars

The Republican convention had a few celebrities on its stage, but they weren't exactly A-list entertainers. Happy Days actor Scott Baio, Young and the Restless actress Kimberlin Brown and actor Antonio Sabato Jr. were among them.

In contrast, Clinton has invited some more well-known Hollywood friends and other celebs to join her in Philadelphia. If you're a fan of Eva Longoria Baston, Lena Dunham, Demi Lovato, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or America Ferrera, tune in.

On Thursday, a concert that's billed as the largest entertainment event in convention history will take place across the river from Philadelphia in Camden, N.J. The lineup features Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz and DJ Jazzy Jeff.

Actress and screenwriter Lena Dunham, known for her HBO show Girls, decked out in Hillary Clinton attire at a campaign event in January. Dunham is among the celebrities attending the convention. (Brian C. Frank/Reuters)


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