Last weekend, when internal Democratic National Committee correspondence published by Wikileaks was all over the media, and Hillary Clinton inexplicably reacted to the scandal by giving outgoing DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz an honorary role in her campaign, I feared the worst. Would Democrats fail to clear the very low bar Republicans set at their “disastrous” convention in Cleveland?
The DNC turned out to be the best I’ve ever seen, and I’m not alone in that assessment. I’ll be surprised if Clinton doesn’t get a substantial boost in the next few days’ polling. Who knows whether this year’s race will conform to trends Dan Guild described in his deep dive into the history of convention bounces. But I’m with Steven Mazie: if Clinton loses to Trump in November, it won’t be because of anything that happened in Philadelphia.
In a week with many good speeches, First Lady Michelle Obama’s was the highlight for me. So well-crafted, so well-delivered. The full video is after the jump, along with some other notable prime-time DNC appearances.
This is an open thread, so all topics are welcome. But please share your own favorite moments from the DNC.
Michelle Obama’s full 2016 Democratic National Convention speech:
Click here for the transcript of the first lady’s remarks. Some that stood out in my mind as extremely effective:
And make no mistake about it, this November when we go to the polls that is what we’re deciding, not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, in this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives.
And I am here tonight because in this election there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is our friend Hillary Clinton. […]
You see, Hillary has spent decades doing the relentless, thankless work to actually make a difference in their lives, advocating for kids with disabilities as a young lawyer, fighting for children’s health care as first lady, and for quality child care in the Senate.
And when she didn’t win the nomination eight years ago, she didn’t get angry or disillusioned. Hillary did not pack up and go home, because as a true public servant Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments.
So she proudly stepped up to serve our country once again as secretary of state, traveling the globe to keep our kids safe.
And look, there were plenty of moments when Hillary could have decided that this work was too hard, that the price of public service was too high, that she was tired of being picked apart for how she looks or how she talks or even how she laughs. But here’s the thing. What I admire most about Hillary is that she never buckles under pressure. She never takes the easy way out. And Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life.
And when I think about the kind of president that I want for my girls and all our children, that’s what I want.
I want someone with the proven strength to persevere, someone who knows this job and takes it seriously, someone who understands that the issues a president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.
Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can’t make snap decisions. You can’t have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady and measured and well-informed. […]
That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.
And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.
So, look, so don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth!
And as my daughters prepare to set out into the world, I want a leader who is worthy of that truth, a leader who is worthy of my girls’ promise and all our kids’ promise, a leader who will be guided every day by the love and hope and impossibly big dreams that we all have for our children.
Before the first lady spoke, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey delivered a very strong address.
I didn’t make it to any of Booker’s events for Clinton before the Iowa caucuses, but he was very well received by Iowa Democrats. If you missed him, don’t worry–he’ll probably be back in our state campaigning for president himself someday.
I felt sympathy for Senator Elizabeth Warren, having to take the stage immediately after Michelle Obama electrified the hall. Warren was technically giving the DNC’s keynote address, but she seemed flat in her delivery. Most of her punches on Republican nominee Donald Trump didn’t really connect.
Senator Bernie Sanders closed out the first night of the convention. His speech felt too long to me; I was surprised to learn later that it only lasted about a half-hour. I also thought he stuck too closely to the script he delivered at so many rallies, and shouldn’t have spent so much time talking about his own campaign before getting to the point. However, I’ve revised my view after talking to other Democrats this week, particularly those who never saw Sanders speak in person and/or those who preferred him for the nomination. That’s the audience Sanders needed to reach. For those Democrats, the DNC remarks came across very well.
Tuesday night, the only speech that will have a lasting impact was former President Bill Clinton’s. In real time, Twitter critics made fun of his exhaustive, play-by-play account of his courtship of Hillary Clinton and their marriage. It wasn’t the best speech he’s ever given, or even in the top five. But for me, it succeeded in communicating how Hillary supported good causes for decades, often getting very little credit for her hard work.
While the former president was on stage, Michael Barbaro of the New York Times triggered one of my pet peeves by tweeting, “Bill is succeeding in putting a human face on a marriage that many find baffling.” So many men in politics are known to have affairs, yet no one casually refers to their marriage as a sham when they or their spouses speak in public. My dad used to say, you never know what’s going on in someone else’s marriage. Only Hillary Clinton gets judged (endlessly) for staying married, probably by many people whose own marriages have had ups and downs.
Three of Wednesday’s prime-time speeches are destined to become part of many television commercials this fall. Former Republican and independent Mayor Michael Bloomeberg of New York City delivered some devastating hits on Trump.
From Pema Levy’s write-up at Mother Jones:
First, Bloomberg, who has been both a Republican and a Democrat but is now neither, spoke to his fellow independents watching the convention. […]
Whatever your differences with Clinton are, he said, “we must unite around the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue.”
Second, Bloomberg’s authority in denouncing Trump comes from the fact that he is a fellow New York billionaire. And from that place, Bloomberg eviscerated Trump’s business record. “Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business,” he said, noting Trump’s history of bankruptcies and bilking contractors. “God help us!”
“I’m a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one,” he continued. “The richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.”
Bloomberg concluded with a few simple words that laid out the simple pitch he was making: “Together, let’s elect a sane, competent person.”
“Sane, competent person” were not in the prepared remarks sent to reporters in advance. I don’t know whether Bloomberg ad-libbed or whether he deliberately held back was was bound to become a widely quoted sound bite.
Vice President Joe Biden spoke from the heart, as usual. His most powerful point about Trump:
His cynicism is unbounded. His lack of empathy and compassion can be summed up in a phrase I suspect he’s most proud of of having made famous: “You’re fired.” Think about everything you learned as a child, no matter where you were raised. How can there be pleasure in saying, “You’re fired?”
Vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine spoke comfortably and came across as sincere, but his appearance was mostly forgettable. He was more compelling in his first joint appearance with Clinton in Florida.
In fairness to Kaine, even if he had delivered the speech of his life on Wednesday, he would have been overshadowed by President Barack Obama. I’m that weird person who has never been wowed by Obama’s “greatest” speeches (the 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote, “Yes We Can” after the 2008 New Hampshire primary). Something about his oratorical style doesn’t resonate with me. That said, he could not have been more effective in making his case for Hillary Clinton.
The president’s speech was actually a bit longer than Bill Clinton’s the previous night, but it didn’t feel long at all. Some of the high points from the full transcript:
And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, has devoted her life to that future; a mother and a grandmother who would do anything to help our children thrive; a leader with real plans to break down barriers, and blast through glass ceilings, and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American—the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton. That’s right!
Let me tell you, eight years ago, you may remember Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination. We battled for a year and a half. Let me tell you, it was tough, because Hillary was tough. I was worn out. She was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers, it was backwards in heels. And every time I thought I might have the race won, Hillary just came back stronger.
But after it was all over, I asked Hillary to join my team. And she was a little surprised. Some of my staff was surprised. But ultimately she said yes—because she knew that what was at stake was bigger than either of us. And for four years—for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment, and her discipline. I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise, it wasn’t for attention—that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion. I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for. […]
You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office. You can read about it. You can study it. But until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis, or send young people to war. But Hillary has been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions. She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes—what’s at stake for the working family, for the senior citizen, or the small business owner, for the soldier, for the veteran. And even in the midst of crisis, she listens to people, and she keeps her cool, and she treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.
That is the Hillary I know. That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire. And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman—not me, not Bill, nobody—more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America.
I hope you don’t mind, Bill, but I was just telling the truth, man. […]
America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us. It’s about what can be achieved by us, together—through the hard and slow, and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.
And that’s what Hillary Clinton understands. She knows that this is a big, diverse country. She has seen it. She’s traveled. She’s talked to folks. And she understands that most issues are rarely black and white. She understands that even when you’re 100 percent right, getting things done requires compromise; that democracy doesn’t work if we constantly demonize each other. She knows that for progress to happen, we have to listen to each other, and see ourselves in each other, and fight for our principles but also fight to find common ground, no matter how elusive that may sometimes seem.
Hillary knows we can work through racial divides in this country when we realize the worry black parents feel when their son leaves the house isn’t so different than what a brave cop’s family feels when he puts on the blue and goes to work; that we can honor police and treat every community fairly. We can do that. And she knows—she knows that acknowledging problems that have festered for decades isn’t making race relations worse—it’s creating the possibility for people of goodwill to join and make things better.
Hillary knows we can insist on a lawful and orderly immigration system while still seeing striving students and their toiling parents as loving families, not criminals or rapists; families that came here for the same reason our forebears came—to work and to study, and to make a better life, in a place where we can talk and worship and love as we please. She knows their dream is quintessentially American, and the American Dream is something no wall will ever contain. These are the things that Hillary knows.
It can be frustrating, this business of democracy. Trust me, I know. Hillary knows, too. When the other side refuses to compromise, progress can stall. People are hurt by the inaction. Supporters can grow impatient and worry that you’re not trying hard enough; that you’ve maybe sold out. But I promise you, when we keep at it, when we change enough minds, when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. And if you doubt that, just ask the 20 million more people who have health care today. Just ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.
Democracy works, America, but we got to want it—not just during an election year, but all the days in between.
So if you agree that there’s too much inequality in our economy and too much money in our politics, we all need to be as vocal and as organized and as persistent as Bernie Sanders supporters have been during this election. We all need to get out and vote for Democrats up and down the ticket, and then hold them accountable until they get the job done.
That’s right—feel the Bern!
If you want more justice in the justice system, then we’ve all got to vote—not just for a President, but for mayors, and sheriffs, and state’s attorneys, and state legislators. That’s where the criminal law is made. And we’ve got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed. That’s how democracy works.
Thursday night, my friends who grew up in the central Iowa Jewish community were kvelling about Doug Elmets. The Des Moines native and University of Iowa alumnus who once worked for Ronald Reagan but will cast his first-ever vote for a Democrat this year, because Trump is so unfit for the presidency.
Three speeches from the final night at the DNC are sure to be featured in tv ads. Retired Marine General John Allen stood alongside a stage full of decorated veterans, telling the crowd, “We must choose hope.”
In my opinion, the previously unknown Khizr Khan delivered the second-best speech of the convention. People will be talking about it years from now. Offering his pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution for Trump to read, and scolding the GOP nominee (“You have sacrificed nothing and no one”) instantly became iconic moments. Richard A. Oppel’s New York Times piece on how he came to be a featured convention speaker is worth a read.
Transcript of Khan’s speech, delivered without notes or a teleprompter:
Tonight we are honoured to stand here as parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims – with undivided loyalty to our country.
Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy; that with hard work and goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.
We are blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.
If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities; women; judges; even his own party leadership.
He vows to build walls, and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future.
Let me ask you: have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. [he pulls it out] In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’.
Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America.
You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.
We cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing division. We are stronger together. And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our President.
In conclusion, I ask every patriot American, all Muslim immigrants, and all immigrants to not take this election lightly.
This is a historic election, and I request to honour the sacrifice of my son – and on election day, take the time to get out and vote.
And vote for the healer. vote for the strongest, most qualified candidate, Hillary Clinton, not the divider. God bless you, thank you.
Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech struck me as too long by ten or fifteen minutes, and her delivery wasn’t as strong as Iowa Democrats witnessed last summer at the “Wing Ding” or Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame dinner. Nevertheless, there were some classic moments. “If you believe … join us” is a perfect counterpoint to Trump’s “I alone can fix it.”
Iowans’ social media feeds exploded when Clinton said, “It is true. I sweat the details of policy, whether we’re talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs. Because it’s not just a detail if it’s your kid, if it’s your family. It’s a big deal. And it should be a big deal to your president.”
This line was priceless and needs to be repeated frequently: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.”
You can read the full transcript here.
Final note: I’m breaking my self-imposed rule against commenting on any candidate’s clothing to say that Clinton’s all-white pantsuit was a fitting tribute to the suffragists who were known for wearing that color during their struggle for the right to vote.
Though it didn’t occur to me at the time, some commenters speculated that wearing white also could have been a way for Clinton to cast herself as the “good guy” battling Trump, a more cartoonish villain than we’ve seen in U.S. politics for many years.
UPDATE: A reader reminded me that Reverend William Barber II of North Carolina gave a powerful speech on Thursday night as well.
Some of my favorite lines:
When religion is used is to camouflage meanness, we know that we have a heart problem in America. […]
In times like these we have to make some decisions. And I might not normally be here as a preacher and an individual, but when I hear Hillary’s voices and positions, I hear and I know that she is working to embrace our deepest moral values, and we should embrace her.
But let me be clear, let me be clear, that she nor any person can do it alone. The watchword of this democracy and the watchword of faith is “we.” The heart of our democracy is on the line this November and beyond.
Now, my friends, they tell me that when the heart is in danger, somebody has to call an emergency code. And somebody with a good heart will bring a defibrillator to work on the bad heard. Because it’s possible to shock a bad heart and revive the pulse.
In this season, when some want to harden and stop the heart of our democracy, we are being called, like our foremothers and fathers, to be the moral defibrillators of our time. We must, we must shock this nation with the power of love! We must shock this nation with the power of mercy! We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all! We can’t give up on the heart of our democracy, not now, not ever!
Probably no speaker all week had a better kicker than Reverend Barber:
Stand up! Vote together! Organize together! Fight for the heart of this nation! And while you’re fighting, sing that old hymn, “Revive us again, fill each heart with our love, may each os be rekindled, with power from above. Hallelujah! Find the glory.”