“If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country,” he said.
President Bill Clinton, watching from the audience, leapt to his feet and applauded, as did most of the delegates filling the convention arena.
Sanders spoke just after Massachusetts. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of liberals who has emerged as one of the Democrats’ toughest critics of Trump.
“Donald Trump has no real plans for jobs, for college kids, for seniors,” she said in the keynote address. “No plans to make anything great for anyone except rich guys like Donald Trump.”
Mrs. Obama was one of the night’s standouts. While she has often avoided overt politics during her nearly eight years in the White House, her frustration with Trump’s rise was evident. She warned that the White House couldn’t be in the hands of someone with “a thin skin or a tendency to lash out” or someone who tells voters the country can be great again.
“This right now, is the greatest country on earth,” she said.
Clinton’s campaign hoped the nighttime lineup would overshadow a tumultuous start to the four-day convention. The hacked DNC emails fed the suspicion of Sanders’ supporters and sapped Clinton’s campaign of some of its energy following a well-received rollout Saturday of her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
Campaigning in North Carolina, Trump seemed to revel in the Democrats’ commotion, telling supporters that Clinton made a mistake by not choosing a more liberal running mate to appease Sanders’ base. “Crazy Bernie’s going crazy right now,” he said.
But in Philadelphia, delegates waved “Love Trumps Hate” signs and cheered as immigration supporters, gay rights advocates, and labor leaders took the stage.
Comedian-turned-Sen. Al Franken, a Clinton supporter, and actress Sarah Silverman, a Sanders supporter, made a joint appearance to promote party unity.
“I am proud to be part of Bernie’s movement,” Silverman said as the crowd roared. “And a vital part of that movement is making absolutely sure Hillary Clinton is our next president of the United States.”
Trump was a frequent target throughout the night, though the jabs were often more mocking than mean. The tone was a sharp contrast to the Republican convention, where the attacks against Clinton was bitingly personal, including chants of “Lock her up.”
Wasserman Schultz had planned to be among those taking the stage, despite the email hacking controversy. But she stepped aside, bowing to pressure from Democrats who feared the mere sight of her on stage would prompt strong opposition.
The outgoing chairwoman did watch the gathering from a private suite at the arena.
Associated Press writers Kathleen Hennessey, Catherine Lucey, Kathleen Ronayne and Julie Bykowicz in Philadelphia, Lisa Lerer in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
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