Democratic National Convention: First Night: It’s What You Don’t Say That Counts
Richard E. Vatz
Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama were to speak Monday night at the Democratic National Convention, and both were expected to try to soothe the audience: Obama successfully and Bernie, whose supporters had earlier ignored the senator’s efforts to calm down his supporters, unpredictably. They were outraged by the revelations of Democratic National Committee hacked e-mails, replete with anti-Semitism and pro-Hillary sentiments by the ostensibly neutral DNC. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who will be out by the end of the week, has meant a split convention, but it is more likely than not that this will not be the problem that will lose Hillary the election to Trump if she fails.
In the speeches by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the crowd and progressive media (CNN had a panel of nine: eight pro-Hillary Clinton and one pro-Trump; now /there’s/ balance) was convinced that differences had been overcome, but there were almost no substantive mentions of any accomplishments by Hillary and literally no reference to her actions on foreign policy as Secretary of State. Warren made stock leftist attacks on Trump and argued he was personally repelling.
Attacks on Trump proliferated throughout the night, and one argument gaining more attention among the many is Trump’s utterly appalling imitation of a handicapped /New York Times/ reporter last year whose writing irritated him. Trump has implausibly claimed that his mocking just was coincidentally physical. There may be no single outrage more persuasive than this that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. Trump specializes in never apologizing (see McCain, John and his allegedly non-heroic service), but this ought to be at least one exception. It could change the outcome of the election, as sickening as it is.
Michelle Obama gave a lovely speech bringing up memories of the growth and development of her daughters. She gave a dignified speech, quite appropriate for a First Lady, and her positives on Clinton can do nothing but help her. Even her attacks of Trump seemed to bring her disappointment rather than anger — a most effective presentation.
Bernie’s speech was not much about Hillary — again no policy successes or even a reference to foreign policy mentioned — but made implications that she had caved on a number of his socialistic policies (recall he himself calls himself the Democratic Socialist), including free college tuition for 80+% of the American people. It will be interesting to see if, as predicted by many disinterested observers, she “pivots” to a more centrist number of policies, as she seemed to do by her choice of Sen. Tim Kaine as vice presidential candidate.
Overall, a positive night for Mrs. Clinton if you don’t consider what matters were not addressed. It is simply not clear whether Bernie supporters, who booed him earlier as he glossed over the unfairnesses of the DNC, will be full-throated Hillary supporters by Thursday night.
*Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of /The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion/ (Kendall Hunt, 2012, 2013)