Day two of the Democratic National Convention kicked off with the roll call, during which every delegation got to step to the microphone and speak their votes triumphantly into the arena. It’s a thing that somehow always manages to pierce my cynical heart and make me weepy and patriotic. Bernie Sanders’ brother, Larry, casting the last vote for Democrats Abroad, was especially touching.
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 26, 2016
And then I got to watch something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime: A woman getting the official presidential nomination of a major political party. In a very classy move, Bernie came down to the floor to stand with the Vermont delegation and make a motion that Hillary Clinton receive the party’s nomination. It was an important symbolic gesture that President Obama called to thank him for after the convention. (Hillary made a similar move in 2008 by asking for Obama to be nominated by acclamation.) A small group of Sanders supporters staged a walkout, but the consensus among reporters in the arena was that the mood and energy of the moment was ecstatic.
It was also another great contrast between last week’s Republican National Convention, which spent its first 30 minutes of primetime after the roll call showing Paul Ryan standing alone on stage with his jaw clenched while the rules committee hashed out a way to explain to Alaska that they had to vote for Donald Trump.
Mothers of the Movement
The most stunning moment of the Democratic National Convention so far — and, in fact, one of the most stunning things I have ever witnessed in my life — was Mothers of the Movement taking the stage to honor their children: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, Dontré Hamilton, and Hadiya Pendleton. They stood together and exhibited more grace and strength and compassion than I’ve ever seen, and in the face of the worst tragedy that could ever befall a parent, in a country fraught with systemic and overt racism. The video above is a longer version of the one the DNC showed before the Mothers took the stage; you can watch the full video of their speeches here.
It’s an especially poignant moment to witness in light of today’s news that charges have been dropped against all the officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death.
Not only did the Mothers of the Movement give Black Lives Matter its most prominent moment in the spotlight to date, it also made the strongest argument yet that Republicans do not own faith. It’s a theme we’ve seen crop up more than once in Hillary’s campaign, especially since Tim Kaine hopped on board, and it’s no small feat to try to beat back the notion that the GOP is the party of Christianity.
Sandra Bland’s mother, Reed-Veal, quieted the crowd immediately when the first words she spoke into the microphone were: “Give me two moments to tell you how good God is. Give me a moment to say thank you. We are not standing here because He’s not good. We are standing here because He’s great.”
They didn’t just say it; they lived it in front of the entire world.
Between the politicians and activists, the night was peppered with short speeches and performances by celebrities. In fact, the entire event was hosted by Elizabeth Banks, who arrived in the arena as a silhouette against a bright white backlight, engulfed in smoke, and continued to troll Donald Trump for the rest of the night.
America Ferrera and Lena Dunham did a pretty solid “Trump Is Making America Hate Again” bit.
Alicia Keys performed flawlessly (of course).
Meryl Streep arrived in an American flag dress and did a whoop of joy before giving a short speech about what it takes for a woman to be the “first female anything.”
And many celebrities you care about joined in an a capella “Fight Song” collaboration.
Bill Clinton delivered a long, rambling, very endearing How I Met Your Mother-style keynote address that attempted (and in many way succeeded) in reintroducing the country to Hillary Clinton. He walked the audience through their life together, from the moment he first saw her on Yale law school’s campus to yesterday morning when they cried together over the loss of a dear friend. Again and again he came back to the same point: Hillary Clinton has made a life out of being being the change-maker Americans need.
“I met a girl” is how he started the speech. And then he painted a real picture of a real woman who has spent her entire life going from state to state and country to country making things better. And then the former president asked everyone to compare that painting to the cartoon villain the Republican party has been convincing Americans Hillary Clinton is ever since she said she’d rather read policy papers than bake cookies.
Rachel Maddow haaaaated it. She called it “shocking and rude.” But the rest of the press went bananas for it. I went bananas for it, and I am absolutely no fan of Bill Clinton. And, look, I get it: We shouldn’t need a man to humanize a woman for us, but since 1940, when Eleanor Roosevelt stepped up to convince Americans to reelect her husband, we have required First Ladies to come to the stage and humanize their husbands at their party’s convention. We shouldn’t need a man to list off the accomplishments of a woman to validate her contributions to society, but history has been erasing women for centuries, and so someone has to bear witness to what we accomplish.
The main message of Bill Clinton’s speech was that Hillary, like all women, has done the hard and invisible work, while he, like most men, stood in the spotlight. Slate called it Bill Clinton’s Love Song. Vox said he reframed himself as a supporting player in Hillary’s life. New York Magazine applauded him for finally doing what Hillary has done for him for his entire career.
President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Tim Kaine will take the stage tonight. I’ve got to believe their focus will be split between extolling the virtues of Hillary Clinton and ripping Donald Trump to shreds.