So the Democratic Convention has ended. This election’s Covid-affected, largely online event replaced the standard live pow-wow and flesh-pressing of previous years with a crafted series of the expected speeches alongside spotlights on “real people” and debate forums open to the party faithful.
Remarkably, even though this was an enforced change to previous conventions, the breadth and scope which an open event permitted allowed for a tonal shift in proceedings which felt fresh and new.
Whether it ultimately translates into the only real currency of importance – votes on November 3rd – is yet to be seen, but considering the event could have been an unmitigated disaster given the fact that it was the first of its kind, the Democrats emerged demonstrating that whilst this may not be an aptitude to running the Federal Government, at least they didn’t fall at the first organizational hurdle.
But who were the stars, and who sunk into relative oblivion? Here are our picks of the best and the worst:
Michelle Obama – the other Obama is now not only an electric speaker but even regularly upstages her husband these days, himself no amateur orator. Her speech somehow managed to be harsh but still steer a high ground, a term she has often used in her speeches. In a fractured world, Michelle Obama still seems to be as close to a rise-above-the-fray everywoman as there is.
It seems unfair to say, but Hillary Clinton is no Michelle Obama. Where Michelle feels independent and values-led, Hillary still seems stuck in the manner of operating which let her down so badly four years ago. It’s an unenviable task, say-nothing-and-get-criticized, or make-speeches-and-get-attacked, all very zero sum. But Hillary just doesn’t have – and was never able to induce – an empathy in voters which is so important outside of game-changing policy positions.
There is so much about Kamala Harris that feels essential, whether it be her refusal to bend to racial type, describing herself as simply ‘American’ and “I am who I am,” to the way she excoriates Donald Trump, her “I know a predator when I see one” proving not just a zinger but a line to make women and parents across the land wince inside. Perhaps more than anything, with Joe Biden unlikely to run for a second term if he wins, this was the moment that the 2024 Presidential Election became Kamala Harris’ to lose.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the best speakers around, but the DNC gave her little time to shine and the short minutes she did have were used to utter an unusually discordant note as she seconded Bernie Sanders for President. AOC will have other opportunities, but this was not her finest hour.
John Kasich has never felt like a tribal politician. In many ways his relatively centrist political sensibilities belong to a Republican Party long since obscured from view but in these highly partisan times any politician who sticks their head above the parapet has some gumption. The fact that his speech was filmed at an actual crossroads made the choice on offer starkly clear.
If the likes of arch Republican fixer Karl Rove and Fox News are praising the speech of a Democrat, then it must have been good. Perhaps more than give a rousing address, Joe Biden achieved an everyman discourse which covered the middle-ground and made a compelling case for supporters from across the political spectrum to support him on November 3rd.
The hawk commentariat were waiting for him to stumble or lose his way, something seen many times before, but here Biden was forceful, focused and fiery. The stumbles may come later, but for now, at his first big opportunity, Biden stepped up to the plate and hit a zinging drive through the middle.
Jon Bonfiglio in Mexico City
Times Media Mexico
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