Impressions from the Democratic Convention

Joe Biden wrapped up the Democratic convention with what is widely hailed as the best speech of his career. Deftly weaving the personal and the political with themes of darkness and light, Biden complemented and built on memorable speeches earlier in the week by Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, and Jill Biden.


These four speeches were highlights but they hardly stood alone. Bernie Sanders was excellent every time he appeared. So was Kamala Harris, whose job on Wednesday was to introduce herself as the vice presidential nominee. She did it admirably.


Jill Biden is one of the most impressive things about Joe Biden.


Human interest segments were compelling and moving. Kristin Urquiza's story about the death of her father on Monday night, last night's appearance by 13-year-old Brayden Harrington, who like Joe Biden stutters, and the piece with Biden's granddaughters are three that stand out for me. I waited for the granddaughters to take a sappy turn, but they never did. Instead their stories about their relationship with their grandfather rang with authenticity. In this they had a wealth of good company over the four nights.


Nattering dissent could be heard from some corners where it is held that Biden and the party brain trust showed their true colors as damn center-rightists by devoting so much time to moderates, conservatives, and heaven forfend, anti-Trump Republicans. They seem oblivious to the detail that there is an election to be won and it will not be easy. The tack taken at the convention should not be considered in isolation from substantive overtures Biden has made to the Sanders wing of the party since becoming the presumptive nominee. We need votes and support across the board. Bernie Sanders is right: the overriding imperative is to defeat Trump and have him leave office in January.


And after the election there is governing to be done. That will not be easy either. Alongside the formidable and intertwined challenges presented by the pandemic, the economy, and the environment stands the equally daunting task of repairing the damage to institutions and norms wrecked by Donald Trump and his regime. Will the Republican Party hold to the McConnell doctrine and deem its priority to be making Biden a one-term president? How will Republicans respond if Trump loses and refuses to accept the results of the election? How will courts packed with über-conservative judges rule when the inevitable lawsuits are filed in opposition to Democratic legislation and actions by the Biden administration?


Tributes by Republicans Cindy McCain and Colin Powell joined those from the Monday night gang of four headed by John Kasich and the indictment of Trump by former acting attorney general Sally Yates. They may not change a lot of votes, and I am not optimistic about their influence on Republican members in the next Congress, but maybe, just maybe, their words and the invitation for them to speak will constitute one of many small steps that will begin to mend our fractured society. Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part. It is what I have.


In this vein I pass along comments from today's newsletter by Bulwark contributor Tim Miller, a communications consultant who formerly served as senior advisor to the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, communications director for Jeb Bush, and spokesman for the Republican National Committee:


I was on Charlie’s podcast this morning [Charlie is Charlie Sykes]and so you can hear more of our thoughts on the Biden performance there but I wanted to share one thing that we discussed after the show was over. Both of us we were caught off guard by how emotionally attached we were last night to this candidacy. We had sort of expected to feel this reluctant, begrudging support for the Democratic nominee, to have been left in a tough spot between one normal bad choice and one existentially bad one. But that isn’t what happened. Joe Biden has me energized. And frankly, that he has both Charlie and I reflecting on whether maybe in the past we were just...in the wrong…


The capacity and willingness to think critically about deeply held convictions is no small thing. We might all do well to take this example to heart.


Keep the faith.


The convention: impressions from night one


Wrap-ups for reference: Candice Norwood, PBS NewsHour

David Matthews

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