As Democrats gathered for their national convention today, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Cleveland warned if the party does not unify behind presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, “we will lose in a way” to Republican Donald Trump that “our country cannot recover from for the rest of my life.”
Fudge, who was named permanent chair of the convention Saturday following the explosive release of e-mails by Democratic National Committee staffers, said “what is at stake” in the election between Clinton and Trump “is the soul of the nation.”
“People all across the world are afraid of what we’re doing here in the United States,” Fudge said. “They are afraid we that are ready to hand this nation to a person who basically who has no more business in running the country than my eight-year-old niece.”
In interviews with reporters and in a brief speech to the Ohio Democratic Party delegation, Fudge urged Democrats to heal the deep divisions caused by the brutal primary campaign between Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.
Sanders will speak tonight to the convention in support of Clinton. But what had been hoped to be a unifying convention began with a major eruption following the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of e-mails written by DNC staffers.
Many of those e-mails suggested what Sanders’ supporters suspected — that the DNC had tilted toward Clinton during the primaries. In an effort to soothe growing anger by Sanders’ supporters, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida resigned her post as chairwoman of the party.
To replace her for the week, Democrats tapped Fudge to chair the convention this week, which she called “an honor.”
“I think that Debbie, who is my friend, did what was right, not just for her, but for the party,” Fudge said. “I think that it was a distraction and I think she took the high road.”
Fudge insisted that the vast majority of those who backed Sanders are already lined up behind Clinton, who this week will become the first woman to be nominated for president by a major American political party.
But in a clear sign that she is worried about Sanders’ backers not rallying behind Clinton, Fudge told the delegates “we can’t govern if we can’t win.”
Interviews with some of the 63 delegates pledged to Sanders in the Ohio delegation revealed disappointment and anger about the DNC putting its thumb on the scale for Clinton, but most said they still will back her as the nominee.
Sanders delegate Bob Hagan of Youngstown, a former state representative, said, “I’m hearing from some that they’re really (angry) and it might take a little while before we can get them all together. We have four days here and I don’t think you’ll see too much anger on the floor.”
Hagan said he, too, was “very disappointed” in the DNC and said it was appropriate for Wasserman Schultz to step down, adding, “If we find out there were some other individuals involved we should make sure they’re out of the party as well.”
But like many other Sanders’ delegates, Hagan said he will work to elect Clinton president, because Trump is unqualified.
“We have a big job ahead of us and that is to make sure that the racist, misogynistic individual who’s running on the Republican ticket does not win,” Hagan said. “I’m telling my fellow Bernie supporters, let’s get this together, we have to defeat something that’s bigger than any divided party we have now.”
Nick Froehlick, 19, a first-time delegate from Lebanon, said “things have been intense since the DNC leaks and, like Bernie, we all kind of knew that it was happening, so it’s a little bit validating. We were talking about it months ago and were called crazy conspiracy theorists.”
But Froehlick said he will eagerly support Clinton once she wins the nomination: “Bernie is my first choice as president, Donald Trump is my last choice for president and Hillary Clinton is the way to beat him.”