DNC delivers optimism, hard work ahead

It’s all right to exhale. The Democrats delivered four well-produced creative and nearly seamless nights, and Joe Biden did extremely well.  The four days were a huge success, from Michelle and Barack Obama to Kamala Harris to unknowns like Kristin Urquiza, whose late father died of COVID-19. He was, she said, a Trump supporter whose “only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump.”

The themes were mostly about “We the People,” with participants covering the spectrum politically, ordinary people of diverse racial, ethnic, gender and religious backgrounds, the emerging New America, including Republicans for Biden. The roll call, usually the most tedious aspect of any convention, was a series of cameos from delegates’ home states instead of the traditional  floor circus droning on with no visual support beyond silly hats and signs. The virtual approach  was charming and efficient.

This was a convention about family, hope and opportunity – a feel-good infomercial. Especially moving was Brayden Harrington,  a New Hampshire 13-year-old struggling with stuttering. He told of how Biden, also a stutterer, had helped Brayden cope with his impediment. The youngster’s willingness to talk before an audience of millions about his problem and Biden’s personal response was emblematic of so many other people’s rising up and overcoming challenges. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, 50, who suffers from aphasia after being shot, was another example.

Barack Obama’s speech called out the forces of hatred Donald Trump has unleashed over the past four years and the existential threat to our democracy posed by a man who, Obama said, never grew into the job. Rather than being a stem-winder, Obama’s speech was a sober call to hard work to ensure that we keep trying to move our nation in the direction of the still-unfulfilled promises of the Constitution.

Joe Biden gave the speech of his life, speaking in broad themes of justice and dignity, and pledging to deal with the four crises we face: the pandemic; the economic downturn; the racial divide; and climate change. He was aspirational and empathetic. He spoke to everyone including those still persuadable disaffected Trump voters reluctant to vote for a Democrat. Embracing rhetorically much of  the party’s liberal agenda,  he authentically included traditional conservative themes of faith, flag, family and character  that we’ll hear from Trump but won’t ring true.

You can joke about Biden’s being the “Comforter-in-Chief,” but it’s no laughing matter when you consider the total narcissism and lack of empathy of the incumbent. Biden’s speech was, happily, gaffe-free. His cadence was impeccable. He was energized, not the “sleepy Joe” Trump insists on portraying. It was a triumph. In short, he looked Presidential.   One-two-three: breathe out.

Frankly, having covered Republican and Democratic nominating conventions, I don’t miss the late hours, the drag of pounding back and forth over concrete arena  floors, the noise, the boredom between events and speakers. The up side being there in person is the networking, intelligence gathering and, of course, free food and drink.  All in all, the COVID Convention, as executed, was a format that probably makes sense even after the pandemic is in the rear view mirror.

Will the success affect the outcome of the election? Probably not. Experts say that what used to be a bump of  13-17 points 20 years ago, or even 6 points as recently as 2004, may just be three to five today because the electorate is so polarized. There just aren’t that many undecideds.

Reed Galen of The Lincoln Project, the group of very smart Republicans trying to defeat Trump, praised the tone of the Democratic convention as “realistic but  not pessimistic; sad but not bitter.”  His colleagues say it left them feeling good. I’ll be stunned if next week’s GOP gathering has the same effect.

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