Long-time readers know I am not a fan of awards shows, often comparing them unfavorable to trade shows, and generally the worst trade shows of them all are our two political parties national conventions. The DNC and the RNC are traditionally a hold-over from another era where conventions really did matter and often did chose the standard bearer. It’s been a lifetime since then, and a format that had no function.
Anyway, now in the age of the Trump Virus, the assorted national conventions have finally evolved into a rather elaborate Zoom meeting, with all that that entails. This is a good thing; the Kabuki Theater aspect of the conventions lives on (everyone knows the outcome, it’s the performance that matters), but format and delivery finally leaves the old tropes behind. (Well, not all tropes: the little moppets from all the states and territories singing the national anthem and morphing into stars on the flag was right out of the playbook.)
What we were presented last night was an infomercial. A really well-done infomercial, complete with a comely narrator (Eva Longoria Bastón wearing symbolically important Suffragette white) and testimonials about the product and complaints about the other product. It is an improvement, and I’m going to tell you why:
We the people.
Last night’s effort featured not-slick testimonials from actual rank and file people who in previous DNCs would never, ever have been given screen time. Their messages were often presented live over Zoom, and they were definitely not staged or scripted; from doors opening (and slamming) to blurry phone cameras it covered the waterfront. Even the former Republican drinking bourbon from a double Old Fashioned glass, trying to hide it in his double-hand grip was a moment of authenticity heretofore unseen.
We knew that something different was happening when early in the program, George Floyd’s brothers, Philonise and Rodney Floyd, were introduced, spoke about their brother and asked for a moment of silence. I’ve never seen anything like that at any convention. Handsome Joe’s widest margin over Hair Füror in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll is race relations — a 24 point spread. I don’t mean to be ham-handed, but there are significant differences between the parties, and I double-gawd dare the GOP to address this so eloquently.
(UPDATE: The WaPo – “The St. Louis couple who became famous after wielding guns at protesters on their private street will be part of the largely digital Republican National Convention next week, Trump advisers said this week. The couple — Patricia and Mark McCloskey — will appear on behalf of the president during the virtual weeklong event and express their support for him, the officials said.” — I didn’t expect to have Claim Chowder until next week!)
Some testimonials were raw emotional appeals (Kristin Urquiza, a voter from Arizona), something we would never have seen in the old format:
“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.”
…and others were slickly produced and beautifully scripted and presented, probably none better than Michelle Obama’s speech:
“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
It’s the denouement we wanted, and a long way from the days of when they go low, we go high. Times change.
Sure, there were the other politicians pontificating to an empty room, well-rehearsed, pre-recorded speeches designed to build to a crescendo with focus-group tested words. They fell flat compared to Urquiza’s genuine words. More, please.
So I’m here to plead may the conventional conventions be dead and buried, and may the new format conventions have a long run.
UPDATE 1: TBotP email thingie-
YEP, IT FELT WEIRD — no doubt about it. The Democratic convention — which kicked off Monday night from peoples’ living rooms across America — was indeed strange. There were a lot of tweets asking what exactly we were watching. Interviews with regular people? Come on, people said.
NEWSFLASH, PLAYBOOK UNIVERSE: If you’re reading this newsletter, the likelihood is this convention is not aimed at you. You may think this whole thing is strange — Fine! It is! — but Democrats are probably not looking to please you. Here’s a good test: Have you thought one minute about whetherRep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ (D-N.Y.) is getting slighted by only speaking for 60 seconds? If so, this convention is not aimed at entertaining you!
COMPLAIN ON TWITTER, or yell into a pillow — it’s up to you. The idea here is to create an echo chamber of people saying that DONALD TRUMP is unfit for office, and JOE BIDEN is the solution to the nation’s ills. As JONATHAN MARTIN and ALEX BURNS put it on the top of A1 of the Times, the program “spanned the gamut from socialists to Republicans, from the relatives of George Floyd to family members of those killed by coronavirus.”
THE POST — with seven bylines — put it this way: the convention showcased “dozens of testimonials that culminated in lancing criticism from former first lady Michelle Obama, who cast Trump as incapable of meeting America’s needs and said Joe Biden would usher in racial justice and ease the coronavirus pandemic.”
UPDATE 2: NYTimes
“The Democratic primary race began as a clash of ideas. But when the Democratic National Convention convened on Monday, the party assembled with a singular aim: defeating President Trump.
“From the progressive left to the moderate wing, Mr. Trump has served for months as the glue keeping the party from fracturing. And never has this détente been more obvious than in the wide-ranging lineup for the first night of the convention, when, in the name of unity, the virtual stage was open not just to Democrats of various persuasions but to Republicans as well.
“The festivities conveyed one message from the Democrats. Whatever their ideological differences with one another or the Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr., ousting Mr. Trump was the primary concern.”