Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Thoughts on the 2nd Night of the DNC
One of my favorite things about these conventions is the Roll Call vote, where states find truly random facts to brag about themselves, crowing about food and landmarks and sports teams all the while casting completely pre-ordained ballots for candidates who already know the result of the election. It was deeply moving watching Sen. Bernie Sanders' brother, though, speak about Sanders' parents who both died before he was 21 and how deeply proud they would have been of their son. It would have taken a heart of stone not to be swept away in that moment, watching the child of Polish immigrants realize a moment he had been working for his entire life, and I had quite a few tears rolling down my cheek as did the junior senator from Vermont. It was a crowning moment, and many Bernie Sanders campaign surrogates and supporters took the final chapter of his campaign as a chance to talk about the political revolution that he had started, but once Sanders officially declared Hillary Clinton the victor (similar to a move she made eight years ago, and the antithesis of what Sen. Ted Cruz did last week at the RNC), it was clear who the woman of the hour was.
The speeches that followed, unlike Monday night, contained little reference toward Sen. Sanders and his campaign, and instead were decidedly about Hillary Clinton. Clinton's image was everywhere, a counter to the first night that I hadn't realized until I noticed the increase in her face and name all over the convention hall, and a number of issues that are deeply personal to Clinton started to pop up. It says something about the personality of Democrats vs. Republicans that the speeches that come out are so different, particularly those earlier in the evenings (when it comes to the main attraction-headliners, they are usually striving for the same goal, rather than pulling out a specific issue). My experiences with the RNC, both in 2012 and 2016, is that the speeches are about unifying through "we're all the same" whereas the DNC has always tackled that from a different angle, trying to point out individualism, and why that makes the party such a wonderful tapestry. It worked for me, as speakers ranging from a 9/11 survivor to the Mothers of the Movement (a powerful nod to the Black Lives Matter movement that would have been unthinkable in Cleveland), brought together a strong portrait of the issues that clearly matter personally to Hillary Clinton. Even celebrities talked about pet causes of Hillary Clinton's, particularly America Ferrera who talked about receiving subsidies for her school lunches growing up and Lena Dunham being a survivor of sexual assault. With the exception of her husband, the night was largely missing in terms of major political players-we saw the likes of Chuck Schumer, Terry McAuliffe (who should truly never be a Clinton surrogate considering his comments outside the arena about TPP-their loyalty to this man has always been eye-raising and this is Exhibit A in why I pray he won't end up running for an open Virginia Senate seat should Tim Kaine win), and Nancy Pelosi all came on the stage, but none of them are what you'd consider great speakers, and all of them are more creatures of the political process than honed-and-trained political speakers. Only former President Jimmy Carter stood out in particular, and mostly out of nostalgia; despite being relatively unpopular during his tenure in office, he's redeemed himself greatly in the public eye, and the Democrats always receive their former president with warmth.
President Bill Clinton, was, of course, the highlight of the evening and was perhaps the most fascinating speaker of the bunch primarily because he was giving the "spouse's speech" but also because he is hardly anyone's idea of an average political spouse (not many political spouses would have been asked to speak regardless). Clinton's speech was, as always, longer than the average viewer at home would hope to experience (my mom texted during his speech that she "needed to go to bed" after he hit the thirty-minute mark), but it got its point across as it went onward. I know Bill's speeches are occasionally divisive, but his goal was to show a human side of Hillary that few people in the public sphere get to see, and is considered one of her weak points (the average voter doesn't find her relatable) and talking about her demeanor, one of a caring but driven workaholic, may not convince anyone on the Right but it plays into why people should trust her to get things done in Washington, a message I expect to greatly be rehashed throughout the fall. I was a fan, and loved the little Clintonesque touches he uses so brilliantly (no one drops a name with better skill than Bill Clinton). All of this culminated in a great appearance that bordered into an Academy Awards ceremony (seriously-Elizabeth Banks serving as host and Meryl Streep coming in for a pivotal presentation-it felt like Best Animated Short was going to be handed out by Cameron Diaz at any moment), and an appearance from Clinton herself which thrilled even if its execution wasn't perfect (you can't feed off the audience's reaction from a video tape). A strong night for the DNC, even if I'm still in awe of Michelle Obama's speech from Monday.