Live-Blogging the 2016 Democratic National Convention: Night 4

10:39 pm: The Reverend giving the closing prayer at the DNC first asks the assembled Democrats to stop bursting the post-speech balloons, and when they keep popping, he says, “Friends, take the hand of sometime next to you, in recognition of what we can all accomplish together!” The Democrats hold hands, and the balloon bursting ceases: That’s the power of rhetorical grace.

10:38 pm: Thousands of Democrats are bursting balloons.

11:06 pm: I’ve been conferring over Secretary Clinton’s Presidential acceptance speech, and what we’ve observed over the past 20 minutes or so is that Clinton really isn’t a strong orator.  My friend’s observation is that Secretary Clinton’s speech lacks a clear overarching theme; I notice that this is ironic, since the speech is very explicit on hitting all the necessary points.  It’s like a series of opportunities to give a Democratic message, with an overall result that the speech lacks impact.  Too much substance, not enough integration of that substance.  Sun-Tzu said “He who defends everything defends nothing,” and this is a speech that, in addressing all points of contention between the parties and making Progressive promises, feels like it stakes no claim for its audience’s intense affection.

10:46 pm: Secretary Clinton accepts the Democratic Presidential nomination: We officially have our first female major-party Presidential candidate.  Maybe the novelty of this nomination has worn-off a bit since it failed in a contested primary 8 years ago–but you can’t tell that from the convention hall.  The applause is long, and it is as loud as any moment of this Convention.

10:40 pm: Secretary Clinton invokes the famous, ground-breaking words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”  She is of course beginning an attack on Donald Trump.  She observes that Donald Trump explicitly promised that “Only I can fix this.”  She notes just how incongruous this promise is in our tradition, that it’s almost un-American.  We do what we do working together, not subordinating our judgments to a strongman.  That’s what Republicans, with characteristic hyperbole, used to call Barack Obama, and now they have nominated a man who promises to be a strongman for President.

10:34 pm: “…And Bill, that conversation we started in the library 45 years ago: It is still going strong.  That conversation had gone on through good times that fulfilled us, through hard times that tested us, and I even got a few words in along the way.  And as we saw 2 nights ago, my Explainer-in-Chief is still on the job.”  Secretary Clinton doesn’t just thank her husband, the former President Bill Clinton (who obviously embarrassed her personally several times in the 1990s), and President Barack Obama  (who defeated her in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary and upset what many thought was her moment), and her running mate Senator Tim Kaine (who could lose a contest for attention to eel grass), but ends on an acknowledgment of this year’s primary running mate, Senator Bernie Sanders  (D-VT), who raked her over the coals for not going too far-enough as a Progressive.  In the 1990s she was regarded by many as going too far as a Progressive; she has remarked in the past that she personally lacks charisma, and that’s true–but she makes up for it in grace and respect.  Secretary Clinton’s skeptics haven’t acknowledged this.

10:07 pm: “I never once doubted that my parents cared about my ideas–and I never, never doubted that they loved me.”  This part is by the numbers, of course, as Chelsea Clinton’s introductory speech for the candidate gets off to a rolling start, but she’s building towards Hillary Clinton’s essential message: “(My parents) taught me that I have to fight to change what I think is wrong.  That, they told me, is what you owe for being smiled upon by fate…”  Thus far, the most-effective part of her speech has been her description of the movie night tradition she has with her parents.  “My father, as you now all know, likes Police Academy…And my mother likes Pride and Prejudice.  But afterwards, she gets back to work…”  This is Hillary Clinton’s link to the theme of the 2016 Democratic National Convention: America is a country liberates people–but there is a staggering amount of vulnerability and human deprivation in this country, and a tireless (and yes, ambitious) advocate is needed.  She isn’t a deliverer making empty promises of settling scores, she is an advocate for those in need who studies a problem and becomes an entrepreneur for change.

9:50 pm: “My father used to have a saying: ‘Show me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are.’  Hillary Clinton has walked with us all her life.”  Congressman Becerra says one of the best things he can say on Secretary Clinton’s behalf, but Trump has laid more than half of the groundwork for Clinton with Hispanic Americans already, calling for a border wall with Mexico and vowing to expel 11 million illegal immigrants who would probably be happy to pay taxes if they didn’t feel they had to hide from the police.  In any case, it was Donald Trump who explicitly wed the Republican Party to White nationalism, so the communities now associating strongly with the Democratic Party are simply the wages of Republicans’ own unintelligent choice.

9:47 pm: “Hillary has what she calls the ‘Chelsea test’: If a school isn’t good-enough for her daughter, it isn’t good-enough for anyone’s daughter.”  Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) gives a good take-home one-liner focused on Secretary Clinton’s Liberalism, which is longstanding and central to what motivates her.  Too many people simply associate her with the corridors of power and pay no attention to what she has used them for or the perspective she has sought to give a hearing there.

Much of the rest of Congressman Becerra’s speech is an attack on Donald Trump.  It’s still satisfying to hear, though.

9:44 pm: Senator Brown reminds the assembled delegates (as if they could forget it) that Donald Trump has called for lowering the minimum wage.  He also accounts for the economic ruin and spoiled dreams that Trump left in the wake of his many failed or fundamentally unsound ventures.  Again, Senator Brown’s delivery isn’t great oratory, but his anger at Donald Trump’s insularity and conceits is easy to believe.  (Ohio is, after all, a State with a well-established center-right proletarian tradition.)  Also, unlike the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Senator Brown doesn’t put the Sun to sleep.  Senator Brown makes a fantastic attack dog on questions of political economics and Trump’s unfavorable classist overtones.  He may not be Senator Sanders, but he’s a substantial representative of the Midwestern working class–precisely the people and the place Trump will need to win over in November, and would screw badly starting right away in 2017.

9:37 pm: Having briefly addressed his modest upbringing, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) launches into an indignant account of stagnating wages and growing corporate profits.  He’s a popular Senator from Ohio, folksy and populist…I wonder how long Secretary Clinton considered nominating this man as his running mate.  He doesn’t demonstrate great charisma in his speech, but unlike Tim Kaine, when he talks flags don’t stop blowing in the wind.

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