So, it seems that the DNC sat back, thought long and hard about how to remodel their national convention for this social distancing, no audience, pandemic moment. And the model they settled on was “telethon.” That’s what night one of the Democratic National Convention felt like, from the short speeches to the vignettes of ordinary people suffering to the musical performances to the general soft-but-urgent tone of host Eva Longoria (who appears to have become a DNC staple) and many of the speakers. All that was missing was the phone banks.
Now, telethons need some kind of disaster to address, and 2020 has left us with no shortage of disasters. Racial strife and oppression, economic collapse, and a horrible pandemic have created a perfect storm of misery, and all these things were addressed last night. But there real disaster was not any of these – no, the speakers treated President Donald Trump himself as a natural disaster, a hurricane of hate and incompetence that has wreaked havoc on the country since 2016.
First Lady Michelle Obama, seemingly choking back tears her entire speech, drove this point home, referring to the “chaos” that Trump has brought. “If you think things can’t possibly get any worse” she warned of a potential second Trump term, “trust me: they can and they will.” But the speeches did not only focus on opposing Trump, but wisely touted Joe Biden as the solution to the crisis. Though light on specifics (except for Bernie, because of course he hammered in particular policies), Ms. Obama and others talked about Biden as if he was St. Jude’s hospital treating sick kids or the Red Cross handing out food packages to earthquake victims.
But make no mistake, this was not about Biden. It was about Trump, both as a cause of much of the chaos swirling across the country and as a symptom of the great divides and cracks that still exist within America. Michelle Obama, speaking characteristically lofty words while seemingly choking back tears during her entire speech, embodied the mix of mourning and hope that we usually express in the midst or immediate aftermath of a major disaster, a mix that permeated night one of the DNC and will likely endure throughout the week. Though I’m sure die-hard Trump supporters will dismiss these emotions, the Democrats are painting their mission as not just winning and election, but saving the country.
P.S. We’re all thinking that we would vote for Michelle Obama in a heartbeat, right? Right.