The First Night
When the day began yesterday, it was a messy day for Democrats as their convention began. Even Bernie Sanders got booed by his own most-passionate supporters when he told them that he was supporting Hillary Clinton. And then there was the continued controversy of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resigning as chair of the DNC.
All I could think about was Will Rogers' quote, "I am not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat." It's worth noting that he said this in 1935. Eighty-one years ago.
At the time, though, I told a friend that I thought it was a very good thing that Sanders got booed -- because it allowed him to face the reaction, and adjust what he'd say later. And also allowed the DNC to address the reaction in advance. And they did change things -- brilliantly. Michelle Obama had originally been scheduled to be the last speaker of the evening, with Bernie Sanders speaking before her. Instead, Mrs. Obama was moved to speak second and have Sen. Sanders speak last. This allowed three speakers to build up the enthusiasm of the room, and build up the reasons to support Hillary Clinton from three Progressives -- and off-setting at least some of the passions of the "Bernie or Bust" delegates, before finally getting to Bernie Sanders to make his case.
And it worked, magnificently.
What started out as a messy day for Democrats ended up one of optimism, strength, charm and enthusiasm. And the story that came out of that first day is Michelle Obama's eloquent, rousing speech, as well as Bernie Sanders' long, aggressive and strong speech ending with repeated support of Hillary Clinton. He probably didn't convince all the "Bernie or Bust" supporters, but he likely convinced most of those who could be convinced. And given that polls show that 85-90% of his supporters have said they'll vote for him, that's accomplishing a lot. Contrast all that with the story that came out of the first day of the Republican National Convention, where the story that came out of the first day was the plagiarism of Donald Trump's wife.
To be clear, the first day wasn't about full unity. There's still disappointment among Sanders supporters, and the far end of them will likely never be convinced to vote for Hillary Clinton, in part because Bernie Sanders spent so much of the primaries telling them not to.
But it was a night of soaring speeches. Not just those of Michelle Obama, but also Sen. Cory Booker who lead off the evening with a rousing, patriotic, hope-filled speech that had echoes of Barack Obama's famous, "We're not a Red America or White America, We're the United States of America" speech, which had the crowd roaring and would have been the story to come out of the night, if not for what came after him. And none of that even takes into consideration Sen. Elizabeth Warren's speech, which wasn't as eloquent or powerful as the others around her, but was blunt, smart, aggressive and very strong.
It was a first night of four impressive speeches.
And yet, one of the more important moments of the evening may have come before all that, when Sarah Silverman spoke with Sen. Al Franken. It wasn't so much her speech, which was good, but one sentence. She has been a very vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders throughout the campaign, and addressed all that in her appearance, explaining why she was happy to support Hillary Clinton. And then -- and I don't know if this was written, or an ad-lib in response to some things being yelled -- she turned to the crowd and his her smiling and snarky way said pointedly, "You 'Bernie-or-Bust' people are being ridiculous." It brought the house down. And shifted at least some of the mood of the room.
It was only the first night. And it's one thing to play to the house and to the base, and another to address all the undecideds out in the world watching. And it didn't completely unify everyone. But --
You pretty much don't ever unify the entire Democratic Party. And they have three nights of powerful speakers upcoming, including President Barrack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Former President Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine and a lot of others. And while there clearly is a lot of anger and fear in the country, there also is a greater need for hope and optimism, something to be for. And most of all, given how the day started -- it ended really well.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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