Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rocky Start Makes Fantastic Finish to Democratic Convention Day One

After the first day of the Democratic National Convention got off to a rocky start, I had written one blog post talking about what job Hillary Clinton had to unite her party and pull this all together in the face of scandal.

Thankfully, my script changed about the time Al Franken and Sarah Silverman stepped on the stage.

Silverman, the always provocative comedian who has been outspoken in her support of Bernie Sanders, exchanged some scripted humor with Franken, the Minnesota Senator that used to be a comedian in his past life.  The point was to make a symbolic rhetorical bridge between Sanders and Clinton supporters and then introduce Paul Simon to sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water".

When Simon wasn't quite ready to begin, Franken and Silverman had to stretch and the "Bernie or Bust" folks began to chant.  Silverman directed her comments right at them and lowered the boom, "To the 'Bernie or Bust' people, you are being ridiculous."

At that moment, the night changed.  The loud boos and jeers over every speaker diminished, and, despite a few interruptions, the night continued.

Four speeches really stood out on his first night with one perhaps ascending to the pantheon of great convention speeches, and I'm not the only one saying it.

First Lady Michelle Obama's speech was clear, concise, emotional and perhaps the best endorsement of Hillary Clinton I've heard.  Drawing on her experiences in the White House, Obama was able to show how transformational moments like the election of her husband signify this country's greatness.  Along the way, she subtly at times and directly at times launched attacks at Donald Trump and the GOP rhetoric about our country.  She also gave a new narrative for Hillary.  One that no one will deny.  That's that Hillary Clinton has been the crucible of politics since she stepped into public life, and she's tough, tested and will not back down.  It was a truly brilliant speech.

Senator Cory Booker's speech also made its rhetorical marks.  The New Jersey Senator got in some good uppercuts on Trump and the GOP, but his speech was about unity and rising together.  He also emphasized the idea of love.  "Patriotism is the love of country," Booker said.  "But you can't love your country without loving your countrymen and countrywomen."

Following those two speeches and following directly after the First Lady, Elizabeth Warren had a tough task.  The Massachusetts Senator experienced a few shouts and catcalls from the audience about her endorsement of Clinton, but she mostly just continued on a brilliant and focused political attack on the Republicans and Trump.

The last speech of the night was Sanders himself.  After spending most of the first half of his speech on some of his greatest hits from the campaign, Sanders floated some new stuff too.  While he gave little ground, Sanders made the case that the only way to continue the revolution begun by his supporters was to make sure to go out and work to elect Hillary Clinton in November.

I have a feeling this convention will continue to be rowdy, but the first night ended on a high note for the presumptive nominee.  We'll see if the unity note continues on Tuesday with the 42nd President, Bill Clinton taking the dais in primetime.  We all know that Bill can spin a yarn.  It's a very unique and historic moment for a former President to make the case for his wife to be the future President.

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