What was that? That was the question the internet was asking as the disjointed first night of the Democratic National Convention kicked off in Milwaukee.
‘It’s time to let them know what we stand for,’ said Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the made-for-MTV montage that opened the virtual convention. This night did not accomplish that.
The night started out calm. Actress Eva Longoria spoke in muted tones as if she were hosting a telethon raising money for children in Africa.
The first major speaker was New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has been on a victory tour touting his COVID-19 accomplishments and tonight was no different: ‘Our way worked and it was beautiful.’ ‘Our’ way was losing 32,000 New Yorkers. Then Cuomo, who had been talked about by a besotted media as the fill-in for the presidential nomination in case something happened to Joe Biden, dropped the phrase ‘European virus’ in his remarks. Those of us in New York were aware that Cuomo had inexplicably tried to blame Europe for the COVID-19 virus which originated in Wuhan, China. It remains unclear why Cuomo does this. If it’s to blame the place from where the virus arrived in New York, he has to understand that to the rest of the country, it would be the New York virus.
Cuomo was followed by speeches from Republicans voting for Joe Biden. Former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman and several other former elected officials gave short statements of support for Biden before turning it over to the main Republican speaker of the night, former Ohio governor John Kasich.
‘America is at a crossroads,’ said John Kasich while standing at an actual crossroads. If that imagery was not enough to paint the picture, Kasich explained that Republicans, and all Americans, could trust Joe Biden not to veer left.
But then Bernie Sanders spoke shortly thereafter, an esoteric bit of scheduling where a bunch of Republicans is followed by a democratic socialist. Bernie made sure to note that ‘many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered “radical,” are now mainstream.’ Are they mainstream or are they mainstream only in the Democratic party? Bernie answered that in the very next sentence: ‘But, let us be clear, if Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.’
Michelle Obama, famous for her line about going high when your opponents go low, went way low and closed out with the best speech of the night. The former First Lady indicted her husband’s successor for lacking fitness of character, while tapping into the racial debate that has characterized this summer: ‘And here at home, as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office.’
She didn’t, for some reason, mention Tamir Rice, Michael Brown or Eric Garner, all of whom died during her husband’s administration. And when Michelle mentioned how ‘children are torn from their families and thrown into cages’, she failed to note that those cages were built and used during her husband’s terms. Obama claimed she ‘hates’ politics but her speech proved she’s good at it.
It’s a tall order to hold a convention with no live audience. Even at the best of times conventions are boring affairs for only the most committed of viewers. Tonight, with the Post Office getting an avalanche of mentions, it was particularly hard to imagine anyone watching who didn’t have to. The saving grace for the Democrats is this year is not about a thrilling show. The country has had a lot of intense excitement recently and Biden’s pledge is a return to normalcy. That normalcy may include tuning out political events like these. Biden better hope that’s true.
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