United States First Lady Michelle Obama offered an emotional endorsement of Hillary Clinton on Monday, hailing the power that having a first female president would bring America and pouring scorn on Donald Trump.
After a day dominated by Democratic infighting, it fell to Obama to unify delegates on the opening night of the party’s four-day convention in Philadelphia.
The speech was at times raw and personal, and it electrified the arena.
“In this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States and that is our friend Hillary Clinton,” she said, to multiple standing ovations.
“Because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all of our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States,” said the wife of America’s first black president, her voice cracking with emotion.
The outgoing first lady remembered her two “bubbly little girls” Sasha and Malia, as they entered the White House and who leave it as “poised young women.”
But — in a thinly veiled jab at Trump — she also painted a picture of a family that had to struggle with the shrill tone of national politics.
“We urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith,” she said, a clear reference to Trump’s early demands to see President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
“We insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country,” the first lady said in a message that Democrats will hope resonates with fathers and mothers voting in November.
“Our motto is, ‘when they go low, we go high.'”
The Democratic convention opened to chaotic scenes earlier in the day, as rival supporters of Clinton and Bernie Sanders traded boos, jeers and taunts in a very public show of party disunity.
As shock polls showed Republican Donald Trump leading the race for the White House, Democrats gathering to make Clinton the first woman presidential nominee from a major party were in disarray.
Diehard supporters of Sanders booed when a pastor leading the invocation prayer mentioned Clinton’s name, setting the stage for each successive mention to spark a raucous chorus of outbursts.
Twice on Monday, Sanders appealed to supporters to help build party unity, ahead of his pivotal primetime address to delegates to close the night.
“We have got to defeat Donald Trump. We have got to elect Hillary Clinton and (running mate) Tim Kaine,” Sanders told a gathering of his supporters.
“Trump is a bully and a demagogue,” he said. His call to support Clinton was nevertheless met with loud jeers.
He later sent a text message to supporters asking them not to protest on the floor of the convention as a “personal courtesy” to him.
But that appeared to have minimal impact.
Much hinges on his third effort later Monday, when he addresses the convention directly in a primetime speech.
The party is reeling from leaked Democratic National Committee emails which show nominally neutral party staff trying to undermine Sanders’ insurgent campaign and questioning his Jewish faith.
WikiLeaks at the weekend released nearly 20,000 emails from between January 2015 and May 2016, gleaned by hackers who apparently raided the accounts of seven DNC leaders.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was investigating the “cyber intrusion,” which the Clinton campaign blamed on Russian hackers bent on helping Trump.
Sanders, a leftist who promised a “political revolution,” lost to Clinton in the primary handily.
But the scandal has angered his already embittered supporters, who believe the deck was stacked against them.
It has led to the ouster of party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and an apology from party leaders.
“We want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email,” the Democratic National Committee said in a statement.
TRUMP VS A HAM SANDWICH
As the boos and chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” continued inside the convention hall throughout the evening, Sanders protesters outside tried to breach security barriers, leading to a handful of people being detained.
“Clinton can’t beat Trump. Period,” said Michigan delegate Melissa Arab, a Sanders supporter.
“A ham sandwich could beat Trump and she’s not going to beat him. If she’s nominated, people are going to end up with somebody bad for president.”
This was meant to be a celebration for Clinton, who was the primary runner-up in 2008 to Barack Obama.
But disunity overshadowed the convention’s anti-Trump message and its courting of Latino voters.
Clinton’s running mate Kaine, a senator from Virginia, said in an interview broadcast Monday that their administration would press for immigration reform in their first 100 days in office.
Clinton will hope that another prime-time address will help foster unity — the endorsement of firebrand Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Warren told the convention that Trump wants an “America of fear and hate,” according to prepared remarks.
“When we turn on each other, we can’t unite to fight back against a rigged system,” she was expected to say.
Some Democratic delegates agreed it was time to come together.
New polls showed Trump surging since his confirmation last week as the Republican presidential nominee, with a CNN poll putting him three percentage points ahead of Clinton — a six-point post-convention bump.
“The stakes are too high. In the end it’s going to be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump and it’s not even a close call,” said Paul Czisny, a 57-year-old delegate from Wisconsin who had supported Sanders.