Second, the convention program has been a tour de force technically, with nary a glitch and with Hollywood-quality videos. These heart-tugging, policy-oriented productions, as well as the biographical ones serve, for the cynical and the angst-ridden, to remind us why we love our country. They are love letters to an emotionally scarred country, each section carefully designed to magnify its emotional impact. We really have not missed a “live” convention, although not all speakers have mastered the art of speaking without an audience. (The Obamas should give tutorials.)
Third, former president Barack Obama took on the task the nominee for vice president usually assumes — obliterating the opposition’s presidential nominee. One can imagine he knew that President Trump would be especially “triggered” by his predecessor’s methodical takedown. (Judging from Trump’s hysterical, all-capitalized tweets, Obama got this one right.) He also had the gravitas to put the election in the context of democracy’s survival. The remarkable destruction by one president of his successor signaled that we are in unprecedented times. And by taking on this job, Obama spared Harris the trouble of doing it and of appearing too negative in what may be many voters’ first exposure to her. (Sure, she got in a zinger or two, including her line that she knows “a predator when I see one,” but her speech was almost evenly divided between her biography and her testament to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s character and abilities.)
Fourth, both Bill and Hillary Clinton spoke outside the network TV broadcast hour; both Obamas were in it. This is no coincidence. The Obamas carry none of the Clintons’ baggage. The Obamas remind us of what Trump frittered away and what we lost. It is fair to say that a more progressive and diverse Democratic Party began under Obama. The party sounds and looks more like the Obamas than the Clintons. That is its future.
Fifth, Democrats’ message discipline is remarkable. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Warren, as well as other former Biden competitors, are entirely on the same page as the ticket in both tone and policy. Whatever mind-meld they undertook paid off. It may simply be that these politicians all genuinely like Biden and desperately want to win.
Sixth, Democrats have figured out how to make policy personal. We see what Trump’s anti-immigrant policies do to families. We learn how a child’s asthma is aggravated by extreme weather and how a mother suffers from the loss of her child to gun violence. We see Ady Barkan’s and Giffords’s courage and now understand their devotion, respectively, to addressing health care and gun violence. We hear the pain in the voice of George Floyd’s brother. By bringing policy down to a human level, one can understand why Democrats are pursuing certain policies. The issues, when accompanied by an emotional wallop, are more readily remembered.
Seventh, Democrats have gone out of their way to show that they love America as it is now — not as it was whenever Trump thinks it was great. They embrace the diversity, the triumph of women, the technological innovation, the immigrant story and the notion that we reinvent America in each generation. They have embraced not only members of their own party but all Americans.
Eighth, once upon a time Republicans resisted moral relativism and postmodern deconstructivism. Now it is Democrats who summon us to stick to the facts, debunk crackpot theories, demand we hold ourselves up to standards of decency and civility, and praise scientific inquiry. Conservatives used to understand that objective reality was itself a check on authoritarian government; now they simply invent conspiracies to justify power grabs.
Ninth, the Democratic Party is now the party of family values. Democrats extol the Biden clan and its collective resilience. They bemoan the destruction of a family by overzealous and inhumane immigration enforcement. They are concerned with the anxiety of parents about their children’s schools and pay attention to the loss of loved ones who have been forced by the pandemic to die alone. Meanwhile, in the other party, a serial divorcé and philanderer rips children from their parents’ arms and waves off parental concerns over children heading back to school during a pandemic. The GOP cares no more for families than it does for the truth.
Tenth, you have to wonder just how nervous Republicans are. Because Trump resisted the idea of a virtual convention, the party is now scrambling to put together a show. Unless it is as seamless and sophisticated as the Democrats’, the former reality-TV star may pitch a fit. If so, his aides should remind him that it was Trump who bollixed up the planning. Typical.