Black Lives Matter
Less than two years after it started, the Black Lives Matter movement was represented onstage at a national party convention. This is no small feat, and it is a striking symbol of how much the base of the Democratic Party has changed since the ’90s. Of course, if the Obama presidency has taught us anything, it’s that symbolic representation and real change aren’t the same thing. Whether the BLM movement can transform an acknowledgment of their voices into lasting legislation is an open question, but this is a demonstration that that goal is not out of reach.
The Howard Dean Scream
Let’s take a trip down memory lane, kids. During the 2004 Democratic primaries, one of the candidates vying to take on President Bush was Howard Dean. After finishing a disappointing third in the Iowa caucuses, he gave an enthusiastic speech rallying his troops. But at the end of the speech, he got a little too revved up and let out a “Yeah!” that sounded like a strangled scream.
It seems quaint now in the age of Trump, but this was, like, a big deal in the media at the time. It went “viral” (as viral as something could go in 2004, anyway), replayed on a seemingly endless loop on cable news, and roundly mocked by comedians and the media alike. Nobody quite knows how much these “gaffes” actually matter, but Dean’s campaign petered out soon afterward, and “The Scream” has become an enduring symbol of the moment things started to go downhill for him. All of this is to say that when Dean took the stage at the DNC, I joked that he should do the scream for old times’ sake, but did not expect him to actually want to relive this painful moment. But he met me halfway, ending his speech by accelerating into an abbreviated version of the same state-listing riff that he did all those years ago. He didn’t end with a scream, but with a wide smile. The crowd loved it, and so did I. It’s rare to see a politician make a joke that’s legitimately self-deprecating, and that makes it possibly the only funny joke of the convention so far.
Larry Sanders and the 102-year-old Delegate from Arizona
We’ve already explained why the roll call is the most beautiful part of a convention (it is impossible to hate people who are insanely excited about boring state facts). In case you weren’t convinced that the roll call is great after Connecticut confidently said it was the home of the hamburger and pizza (don’t google that, it’s way too good to fact-check), two of the speakers briefly turned the event from a Schoolhouse Rock marathon into an Oscars-worthy tearjerker. The only actual Bernie bro — who spread the Sanders message abroad during a run for Parliament earlier this year — spoke for his brother as a Democrats Abroad delegate during the roll call on Tuesday, and said their parents would be “proud.” It made Bernie cry. It made Larry cry. We’re not crying, YOU’RE crying.
Earlier in the roll call, 102-year-old Jerry Emmett spoke for Arizona. She mentioned that women weren’t allowed to vote when she was born, and she was so damn excited to be speaking.
May you be as excited about anything as these states are about their homes.
Speaking of the roll call, New Mexico chose to name-check, of all things, an AMC drama about a man who builds a drug empire in Albuquerque. Do you, New Mexico, do you.
People Who Like Story Time
Gather round the stage, for the speakers at the second night of the Democratic convention want to tell you a story about how they met Hillary Clinton — and how she helped them deal with an issue that happens to be near and dear to the party platform’s heart this year. It was like QVC was on and the only things for sale were Hillary Clinton anecdotes. There were the stories from the mothers of police brutality victims, those who lived through 9/11 and interacted with Senator Clinton, lawyers who mentioned her time working for the Children’s Defense Fund. And if you missed any of those stories, Bill Clinton was there to give you the complete history of Hillary’s life, as observed by him. The story, which considered the teleprompter a mere acquaintance, went through nearly every year of their relationship, weaving in an equally thorough rundown of her career highlights.
Regardless of what you think of Hillary Clinton, or how the stream of stories — some very emotional and personal — made you feel, it was a marked contrast from the Republican convention. Trump told the New York Times that he wanted people watching that to come away thinking that he is “very well liked.” If that was the purpose of the RNC, it didn’t work very well. Although anecdotes about how Clinton was unqualified to be president were plentiful, few people seemed to have stories to share about Trump. Even his children couldn’t come up with much to humanize him!
What you need to known to understand this burn: Anthony Weiner is a former U.S. congressman from New York who resigned after he was caught sending sexually explicit texts and pictures to a woman who wasn’t the one he was married to. Some people called it Weinergate. Yes. Now you’re ready.
Donald J. Trump Jr. has highly questionable opinions, but you gotta respect the craftsmanship on this artisanal burn.
People Who Wanted to Hear About National Security
The Republican Party spent much of their convention stoking the fires of fear, and the issue of national security was their primary fuel. But national security, and foreign policy at large, has been largely absent from the Democratic convention. In fact, Democrats haven’t talked much about ISIS all year, especially in comparison with Republicans. Maybe decentering foreign policy is sort of a rebuttal to the idea that this is the issue that will require the most attention from our new president, choosing instead to emphasize the issues that are of most interest to the people who actually voted for Clinton during the primary (like police brutality, LGBTQ issues, abortion, voting rights, and immigration reform). It also makes it much easier to make a significant tone contrast — optimism for the future versus gloom and doom for the present — with the Republican convention.
Still, the fact that Republicans are going to use Clinton’s foreign policy history against her this fall was one of the only things we learned about Trump’s plans last week. And the Obama/Clinton record on foreign policy is spotty, to be extremely generous. It’s going to require more than a shrug of the shoulders and saying “it could have been worse, and do you really trust Trump with nukes?” There are still two days left in the convention, so there’s still time for Democrats to present their foreign policy vision and national security plan. Hopefully she’s got something more substantive than Mandlebrot’s strategy prepared.
The Glass Ceiling
When Hillary Clinton gave her concession speech after the 2008 primary, she said that while her campaign hadn’t been able to break the “highest, hardest glass ceiling,” it had cracked it, making the path for the next person easier. Turns out that the next person was her. On the second day, she formally became the first woman to become the presidential nominee for the one of the two major American parties. Only one glass ceiling remains.