The DNC Summarized
The Democratic National Convention took place last week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Much like this year's Republican National Convention, the message put forward at this year's DNC provided a stark contrast to conventions of previous years. Democrats have always been quick to point out systemic issues in American society; where we could, as a whole, do better. This year, however, the DNC had an incredibly upbeat, optimistic, and overall patriotic vibe to it, a sharp contrast to the RNC's bleak picture of a weak and vulnerable America.
Monday's speakers included actress Sarah Silverman, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and First Lady Michelle Obama. The tone of the first day of the convention was clear: party unity would be necessary if Democrats were to not only win the upcoming election, but to also combat the bigotry and bully-tactics put forth by Donald Trump. Silverman, a comedian and a Bernie supporter, described the importance of having Sanders' supporters throw their energy towards Hillary Clinton's campaign. When she was met with boos, she announced that "Bernie or Bust" individuals were "being ridiculous." Warren called out Trump for both his scam-artist ways (constantly underpaying staff and employees), and for failing to actually put forth any policy ideas, instead feeding solely on the fear of his supporters.
Sanders, during his speech, was met with great opposition from "Bernie or Bust" supporters in the audience, who booed and screamed when he endorsed Clinton. He reaffirmed that Clinton would work towards a more progressive policy, and even attempted to highlight areas in which his and Clinton's platforms were deeply similar, stating: "During the primary campaign, Secretary Clinton and I both focused on this issue but with different approaches. Recently, however, we have come together on a proposal that will revolutionize higher education in America. It will guarantee that the children of any family this country with an annual income of $125,000 a year or less -- 83 percent of our population -- will be able to go to a public college or university tuition free."
The evening closed with an incredibly emotional speech from Michelle Obama, who highlighted how far America has come since its founding. She said, "I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn..." Later in her speech she noted that America does not need to be made great again because it is, in this moment, "the greatest it has ever been." Monday set the tone beautifully for the rest of the week.
On Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton spoke. His speech was an attempt to humanize Secretary Clinton; too often, criticism directed at Clinton is aimed at her seeming inability to seem genuine or authentic. It seems as though Bill Clinton's speech was attempting to counteract those assumptions: he covered the entirety of their relationship, starting with Yale, and ending with Hillary in the present-day. Several mothers whose murdered children sparked the "Black Lives Matter" movement also spoke Tuesday, praising Clinton for her desire to work closely with the communities she hopes to serve. "Hillary Clinton isn't afraid to say black lives matter," said Lucia McBath, whose 17 year old son was killed in Florida in 2012. "She isn't afraid to sit at a table with grieving mothers and bear the full force of our anguish. She doesn't build walls around her heart. Not only did she listen to our problems, she invited us to become part of the solution."
Clinton was officially declared the nominee after Tuesday's "roll call," where delegates officially cast their votes based on which candidate won the primary in their respective county. Larry Sanders, brother of Bernie Sanders, made a notable appearance representing Democrats Abroad, who had overwhelmingly voted for Sanders over Clinton. Larry recalled his and Bernie's childhood, with parents who worked hard and died young; the very type of people Sanders' platform seeks to protect.
Wednesday certainly had the most high-profile speakers: former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, Vice President Joe Biden, and President Barack Obama. Bloomberg and Kaine both emphasized the reasons Trump is truly unfit to be president, with Bloomberg stating that as a New Yorker, "I know a con when I see one." Biden delivered a passionate, patriotic speech, stating that "America owns the finish line," and encouraging viewers to vote on the basis of who would be kind and empathetic towards the American people.
The final speech of the night was given by President Obama. He chose to focus on the character and spirit of what it means to be an American; in traditional DNC manner, he did address certain areas in which the nation could do better, stating that "we still have more work to do. More work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a decent retirement; for every child who needs a sturdier ladder out of poverty or a world-class education; for everyone who hasn't yet felt the progress of these past seven and a half years. We need to keep making our streets safer and our criminal justice system fairer; our homeland more secure, and our world more peaceful and sustainable for the next generation. We're not done perfecting our union, or living up to our founding creed - that all of us are created equal and free in the eyes of God." However, he quickly segued into a much more positive, optimistic view of the United States, claiming that the American people were hard-working, full of integrity, and filled with the drive to make the country better for everyone. After the audience had booed after Trump was mentioned, Obama reminded everyone that they had the power to stop him, saying: "Don't boo. Vote!"
Hillary Clinton was the final speaker of the convention on Thursday evening. Dressed in all white to honor suffragettes who fought for women's right to vote, Clinton spoke of unity and the power of communities to solve issues. "Americans don't say, 'I alone can fix it,'" she remarked. "We say, 'We'll fix it together.'" While Clinton's speech was moving, and certainly in line with the optimistic tone of the convention, the speech that has garnered the most attention was that of Khizr Khan. Khan, accompanied by his wife, Ghazala Khan, spoke of the loss of his son, Captain Humayun Khan, who had served with the U.S. Army in Iraq. Khan was killed in action in 2004; the speech focused not only on his sacrifice, but on what it meant for the Khans, as Muslims and immigrants, to have had the opportunity to sacrifice in the name of the United States. Khan's emotional speech both emphasized the diversity that makes America what it is, but also openly criticized Trump's policies as both anti-American and blatantly unconstitutional. He offered Trump his personal copy of a pocket-sized constitution, pulling it out of his suit jacket; later in his speech, he asserted that Trump knew nothing of sacrifice, stating "You have sacrificed nothing and no one." Khan's speech was by far the most moving out of every speech in the DNC, and led to a drastic increase not only in the sale of pocket constitutions, but a spike in the number of individuals attempting to register to vote online--the number of searches for "register to vote" on Google was the highest it had been at any point it had been during the DNC or RNC after Khan's speech.
Trump's response to the DNC was perfectly in line with the way he has reacted to all criticism thus far. Aside from asserting that he wanted to "hit people so hard", particularly Bloomberg, Trump also insulted the Khans. He claimed that Clinton's speechwriters had created the speech to smear him, that Khizr had no right to insult him, and that Ghazala, who had remained silent throughout the speech, was "not allowed" to speak, indirectly insulting Islam by claiming that she was silenced due to her status as a woman (in a later interview, she stated that she was overwhelmed because it was the first time she had seen a photo of her son since he died. She has recently penned an op-ed that builds off of her husband's speech). Trump then claimed that he had made tremendous sacrifices as well: "I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've had tremendous success. I think I've done a lot." Trump, it seems, equates success with sacrifice.
Other Republicans have publicly condemned Trump's comments on the Khans for insulting the death of an American soldier. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam war veteran, said in a statement: "In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier's parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States - to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates." McCain has, however, failed to retract his endorsement of Trump.