Virtual Convention Notes

In 2016, I did full-blown recaps of each day of the Democratic convention. The 2020 shebang is different so I’m doing something different; at least I hope it is. I’m going to start with the second night and work my way backwards much like this Neil Finn lyric: “I believe in doing things backwards. Take heed, start doing things in reverse.”

I’m impressed with what Team Biden has managed to pull off. Apart from the major speeches by Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama, the second night was stronger than the first. So much for doing things in reverse. The virtual convention is a new thing and they were nimble enough to correct some of the issues from day one. Well done, y’all.

I’ve always loved the roll call with its pageantry, silly hats, and OTT rhetoric. The new-fangled filmed roll call was even better. It was a tour across America showing the country’s diversity as well as calamari. The road trip format was particularly cool for those of us who are taking the lockdown seriously. Thumbs up to the road trip road call.

The themes of the second night were stronger and more cohesive as well: health care, national security, education, and “meet Jill Biden.” The national security segment was excellent: it was great to see Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch one of the heroes of the House impeachment hearings. Holy pleasant surprise, Batman.

As to the “meet Jill Biden” segment, I liked how it weaved together the personal and the political. The Bidens *were* a broken family when Dr. Jill joined it. The analogy to the current state of the nation is apt. We’re a broken country that needs fixing. Help is on the way.

I spent little time on social media as things unfolded. I’m a big picture guy and social media focuses on momentary details. The purpose of this convention is to expand the party’s support and reach reachable independents and Republicans who dislike Trump. Next week’s neo-Nuremberg rally has the opposite goal: scare “the base” into fervent support for the dear leader. It’s apt to repel non-fanatics and push many voters off the fence into the arms of the Biden-Harris ticket. Thanks, Donald.

Even though the second night was stronger overall, the best speeches thus far were by Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama. In this year’s convention speech, the former FLOTUS’ tone went from go high to bless your heart. It was personal, heart-felt, well-written and delivered. The virtual format was perfect for her conversational style. Her message was spot-on: President* Pennywise is not up to the job and never will be.

The best *political* speech of the first two nights was given by Senator Bernie Sanders. He framed the upcoming election as a choice between democracy and authoritarianism and urged his supporters to do the right thing and support the ticket. Some on the performative left, however, will never get the message even when it’s delivered by Bernie. In 2020, Team Sanders are team players, working to write the platform with Team Biden. Everyone should read a piece about the platform process in Vanity Fair. This passage sums up the Vermont Senator’s approach in 2020:

It helps that Sanders’s backing for Biden runs deeper than political necessity. At a base level, there’s a collegiality between the two rooted in their time serving together in the Senate. “Biden has, despite differences of opinion with Bernie, a fundamental respect for him as a person of conviction who advocates for issues that he cares deeply about,” said Faiz Shakir, who served as manager of the 2020 Sanders campaign. Speaking with Sanders, it’s clear that respect runs both ways—that he sees Biden as prepared to meet the moment.

“Look, I can’t predict to you what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone in the next four years. Politics is strange in that with somebody like Joe Biden—who I know fairly well—you have a person who has been, as he will tell you, throughout his political career, a moderate. But I think that what he has told me and he has told the American people is that he understands the enormous crises we are facing today,” Sanders said. “At this moment we have a president who’s trying to undermine democracy and move us into an authoritarian form of society. Those are huge issues. Unbelievable. And I think Joe understands that. I think if you talk to Barack Obama, he will tell you the same thing. That what we did yesterday is not good enough.” If elected, Biden will likely be the most progressive president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Sanders believes.

I’ve long thought that Bernie Sanders was better than his more extreme supporters. He’s proving that in 2020. I have little use for what I call the performative left and Athenae calls the purity ponies. I hope they join Bernie in his full-throated support for the Biden-Harris ticket but if they don’t, they don’t. I’m not wasting my breath on them. We have a Kaiser of Chaos to defeat.

Joe Biden is a party man. There’s little in the Sanders platform that is alien to the pre-Reagan revolution Democratic party. The party is moving left and so is Joe Biden. In 2020, the practical thing is to support sweeping change; Joey Shark is a practical man. A reminder that FDR ran as a moderate in 1932 and made the incumbent Herbert Hoover the issue. The sitting president is always the issue in a re-election campaign even when the title comes with an asterisk. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

National conventions have been morphing into teevee shows for decades. The last time the nomination for either major party was decided at a convention was 1976. I find that I prefer the virtual convention to the traditional kind. What’s not to love about the road trip roll call?

I cited Neil Finn’s Love You ‘Til The Day I Die at the beginning of the post. It’s an appropriate song for our times: 170K and counting Americans have died during the pandemic. It’s time for those who made it worse to go. Make it so, America, make it so.

The last word goes to Crowded House: