Beyond the technical difficulties, the minutes of dead air, the mimed performances, the delegates staring blankly into the camera unaware they were live on air, the awkward moments that made you squirm in the seat, the taped speeches, the Zoom call feel – fifty nodding heads distracting from the action – the Democratic National Convention was largely a non-event. Betting markets remained unmoved by the four day love-in.
The big guns were rolled out – luminaries from administrations past, minorities with a sad story to tell, and young activists hoping the political establishment would save the planet, right the wrongs and usher in, dare we say, a New World Order.
‘Build Back Better’ was the motto, suggesting some kind of collapse or dismantling of existing structures. Further details on how this might manifest were not forthcoming, although left-wing protesters are burning and looting many American cities. Perhaps that is the precursor. Fire-proof courthouses perhaps. Unsmashable glass for shop-front windows. Empty, defunded, unnecessary police stations.
As the convention unfurled it became clear that some mythic figure called ‘Joe’ was going to reverse climate change, save small businesses, solve domestic violence, unite families, and heal an entire nation. Images of a glassy-eyed, old man flashed periodically across the screen. Maybe he knew Joe. Maybe he had a direct line to the hero. The world certainly needs heroes.
Another mythic figure named ‘Trump’ had apparently wrought destruction across the land. He had destroyed the economy, released and spread a virus that killed 170,000 people, belittled the presidency by not trying hard enough, failed to grow into the role, enriched only his friends, and driven the country to the edge of a precipice. He sounded like a modern-day Nero, a villain who golfed while his nation burned.
The speeches were a mixed bag of heartfelt inspiration and thinly veiled bitterness. An insipid Bill Clinton was exposed as a bundle of raw nerves, the Slick Willy charm having completely deserted him. These are not easy times for former close associates of the late Jeffrey Epstein – prolific pedophile and child trafficker to the rich and powerful. Daily salacious revelations continue to emerge. Ghislaine Maxwell, who literally knows where the bodies are buried, sits in a prison cell ever mindful of the leverage she holds over members of the elite. Mr. Clinton had the feel of a man on borrowed time, with one eye was on the front door that might be kicked down by a SWAT team at any minute. Could this be his final public appearance? If so, he seemed a shadow of his former ebullient self.
Jill Biden, Joe’s handler and constant companion, was a minor star of the convention. Her natural moving speech displayed a heartfelt love for the teaching school kids, and she seemed genuine and authentic. Mrs. Biden came across as a gritty woman prepared to stand up for her convictions, a trait so rare among professional politicians.
An ageless Nancy Pelosi spoke of her role in inspiring the next generation of women to enter politics. Pelosi has amassed a fortune of roughly $120 million in her lifetime, owning sizeable chunks of Facebook, Apple, Comcast, and Disney, as well as an impressive real estate portfolio. Without suggesting impropriety, politicians are not that well paid, and Pelosi’s ability to dominate the House while accumulating an impressive fortune might just motivate those concerned with equity, and income inequality to run for public office.
Elizabeth Warren delivered a punchy and coherent speech that almost stole day three. Perhaps nursing bitterness at her failure to secure the nomination, Warren too spoke of the joy of educating children, and the role that childcare plays in the careers of mothers. It was a convention highlight, proving Warren to be a superior candidate to Biden in almost every possible measure.
Barack Obama pulled at the heartstrings in a speech that barely seemed scripted. With many news agencies reporting unfavourable quotes from his time dealing with Mr. Biden, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to fuck things up,” perhaps the former president felt he had fences to mend. He delivered both barrels, pumping on Mr. Biden while haranguing Trump for not trying hard enough, as though effort was an easily measurable commodity. It seemed almost comical when he described Mr. Biden and him as coming from different generations, when the still spry and eloquent Mr. Obama is comfortably retired, and the stumbling, decrepit Mr. Biden is applying for the most stressful job in the world at the age of 78.
Kamala Harris underwhelmed in her acceptance speech, appearing stilted and robotic. Lots of smiles were delivered when telling stories of her beloved mother, but no real emotion was conveyed. She was subdued, too reined in. Perhaps she’s a student of Robert Greene, keenly aware not to outshine her master. There is plenty of time for the shoulder tapping role that she might have been selected for. In the meantime, she may be content to emit medium wattage.
An ageless Hillary Clinton spoke resentfully of the dangers of winning a popular vote but losing an election. This story might be getting a little old four years later, but it was wheeled out in all its savagery for yet another run. Yes, Mrs. Clinton, your 2016 campaign failed to win many states it thought were safely in the bag, and you somehow proved an entire profession of pollsters completely wrong. We can only hope her pain might one day end.
Joe Biden secured the nomination by waking up in the morning, dodging any possible scrutiny, and reading shakily from an auto-cue. His speech was largely sombre and restrained, describing days of endless darkness. He piled negativity on the current administration, blaming it for a litany of catastrophes, some of which must surely fall beyond its influence. It’s clear Mr. Biden’s story contains moments of nobility, loss, and grief, but after almost fifty years in Washington, it might be a stretch to sell him as the solution – to anything.
The Democrats emerged from the convention as the party of good intentions, lofty ideals, and a vague kind of hope. Platitudes were thick on the ground, and diversity was on full display. The faithful were repeatedly implored to vote as early as possible. A cynical observer might conclude that the populace is being asked to suspend its capacity for rational thought. The election is still months away. Many twists are yet to emerge. Mr. Biden will be tested. He can surely not hide in his basement all the way to November. An early vote might be a wasted vote, should new information come to light, should a scandal emerge, or should a 78-year-old demonstrate a level of cognitive impairment that excludes him from the position.
How many competent, energetic, keen, alert, and quick-witted 78-year-olds do you know?
And that was the DNC non-event. Let’s see how the Republicans counter.
G G Novack – Political Correspondent