The convention: impressions from night one

I won't pretend to have any fresh insight or analysis to offer. Just a few thoughts about how the first night of the Democratic Convention struck me. As Amy Walter at the PBS NewsHour observed, it was better than a Zoom meeting. A low bar, yes, but no one knew what to expect.


I rather liked it. The evening moved along nicely. There was a minimum of filler. Two hours was plenty. I did not miss the hoopla and silliness associated with a conventional convention. The absence of a live audience may have made speakers less tempted to go for applause lines. Sincerity and the gravity of the choice before us shone through more brightly without interruptions for applause and other distractions.


Among the most moving segments was Kristin Urquiza's story of her father, a Trump voter who died in June from COVID-19. Her dad, she said, was a healthy sixty-five-year-old whose only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump.


Throughout the campaign there have been countless stories of Joe Biden's empathy and ability to relate instinctively, honestly, to ordinary individuals who are grieving, suffering, or otherwise in trying circumstances. Cory Booker illustrated this side of Biden last night when he told of a debate where he and Biden "were having a go at it." In the commercial break Biden put his arm around Booker and told him how good his ideas are and how it important was that he was on that stage. Booker said he suddenly realized that Biden was giving him a pep talk. This goes to the heart of who Joe Biden is, a decent human being who cares deeply about this country and its people.


Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama nailed it as the headline speakers. Sanders' message that he will work with progressives, moderates, and conservatives to defeat Trump followed nicely on the earlier segment where four prominent Republicans explained why they actively support Joe Biden and will vote for him in November. For them as for Sanders the overriding moral imperative of the moment is to defeat Trump in November and to see that he leaves office in January.


Sanders also got in a memorable line I imagine we will hear again: Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump played golf.


No one in the present moment calls to the better angels of our nature more convincingly and with greater conviction that Michelle Obama (Michelle Obama's DNC speech: read it in full). She is absolutely remarkable, a national treasure.


The first night went well for the Democrats and the country. But it was only one night. The road ahead is long and treacherous. Much is at stake. Keep the faith.


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