It seems highly unlikely that stalwarts of either party will be switching sides in this election, given the deeply polarizing nature of both candidates. But there’s a chunk of the electorate in the middle of the spectrum to think of, people to whom Hillary Clinton doesn’t exactly appeal, but who find Donald “seven-layer taco dip” unimaginable. To them, Clinton must present a palatable alternative, but she doesn’t need to lock up the presidency this week in order for the Democratic National Convention to be a success. She just needs to, well, not fuck it all up.
Consider her opposition — following a 70-minute presidential acceptance speech on Thursday, featuring more fearmongering than an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, here’s what Trump and his campaign have to show for themselves:
2. Announced he would fund super PACs aimed at ending Cruz’s and John Kasich’s careers because they don’t support him.
3. Declared that the European Union was founded just to beat the United States (it was not).
4. Created an ad from the convention focused exclusively on how long Trump can talk and how much applause he got.
5. Said that he would consider supporting the Senate campaign of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a man who resembles both a snake and a roll of paper towels, despite the fact that GOP Chairman Reince Priebus announced that Duke would never gain GOP support.
6. Snuggled up even closer to Vladimir Putin.
It would be great if the DNC, and Hillary Clinton’s speech capping it off, turned out to be a week focused on concrete policy explanations. But after a Republican National Convention in which the only policy discussed was either made up or apparently not about Trump at all, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it might be better if it isn’t, because all Clinton really needs to do is make it clear that the line between her and Trump isn’t Democrat versus Republican, or even liberal versus conservative: It’s “mildly sane — like, probably not a snake person” versus “a former Klan leader was inspired to run for the Senate by this person.”
There are a lot of important policy questions still left for the Democratic Party to consider, especially given Bernie Sanders and his supporters’ fight to pull the party further to the left and the addition of stalwart moderate Tim Kaine to the ticket. And honestly, it would be terrific if Clinton’s opponent in this race had launched a policy discussion that wasn’t based on a hypothetical wall or an ironclad disdain for facts. But the RNC showed that a convention doesn’t even need to agree with its party’s own platform, let alone introduce answers to complex questions of governance. Clinton’s goal this week shouldn’t be to make her audience think; it should be to make it clear that she, unlike Donald Trump, does.