Fifty Things About Night One of the DNC

by Daniel Foster

Some observations — Nordlingerian in form, Goldbergesque in function — on the first night of the DNC. I watched most of live, inside the arena. You’re welcome. The general upshot ones are toward the end.

1) I didn’t get into position until North Carolina governor Bev Perdue’s speech. But she sure Bev Perdue’d it up. I hear Cory Booker made a really stupid comparison. That’s too bad, I continue to think he’s one of the good ones.

2) The last sentence was not a dog-whistle, but a reference to Booker being a good Democrat.

3) They aired a video of activist Ryan Case, who lost both of his (un- or under-insured) parents in quick succession. Case’s story is a sad one, and he was quite emotional. There is really no good response available to Case’s contention — “I feel like if they had had Obamacare, my parents would still be around” — which is why bald appeals to emotion like this are so shameful.

4) Case hammers on student issues, and especially Governor Romney’s plan to reduce Pell Grants to 2008ish levels — you know, like a sociopathic Nazi would.

5) Case says that both his parents were scientists and that he’s following in their footsteps, in a sense, by being a political-science major. Huge cheers. I don’t think the GOP would cheer a poli-sci major (and I say this as one).

6) The first night’s lineup is “diverse.” Lots of minorities — black, Latino, Asian — and women. Remember, this isn’t pandering, because it’s Democrats.

7) Marco Rubio last week: “Our problem with POTUS isn’t that he’s a bad person.” Tone of the DNC tonight: “Mitt Romney is a piece of human garbage.”

8) Illinois is a national embarrassment and a failed state, so I’m not sure why they pushed Pat Quinn out there talking about how Republicans “are scared of facts.” You want to talk about facts? Let’s talk about Illinois finances and Chicago murder rates.

9) Pat Quinn: “Make the will of the people the law of the land.” ::shudders::

10) The lineup included a Cincinnati fireman named Doug Stern. A self-described ex-Republican, Stern was apparently part of the DNC’s boffo plan to have a public-sector employee thank Obama for protecting his pension, to drive home how the private sector is doing fine.

11) Tim Kaine: “The auto industry is back!” It is?

12) The arena is rapturous over Ted Kennedy’s highlight reel vs. Romney in 1994. I mean nuts.

13) NARAL president Nancy Keenan gives a “women’s issues” speech. She goes heavy with the Akin references. “We believe that rape is rape,” and “There is no room for politicians [in reproductive decisions], especially those politicians who don’t know how women’s bodies work!” Rapturous applause.

14) Keenan: “Women in America cannot trust Mitt Romney. . . . Don’t assume that every voter knows what Barack Obama has done for every woman in this country. And don’t assume they know the truth about Mitt Romney.”

15) Keenan ends with a rousing encouragement to talk to strangers about reproductive rights. That should go smoothly.

16) The crowd chants “Four more years!” several times throughout the evening. Jonah wondered whether they would.

17) Tammy Duckworth, triple-amputated vet and Black Hawk pilot turned Democratic pol, is one hell of an impressive woman, politics be damned.

18) Crowd chants “U-S-A! U-S-A!” a couple of times, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it is unironically.

19) Self-professed dendrophile Lincoln Chafee on environmental conservation: “We love this land, literally.”

20) Chafee also pronounces “Pell Grants” “Pell GRANTS,” like Christopher Walken would.

21) Chief Justice John Roberts gets the loudest applause of the night, arguably.

22) Well not Roberts per se, but the mention of Obamacare being upheld by SCOTUS.

23) Ted Strickland, who lost to Kasich in Ohio, gives a really ugly, hyper-nationalistic speech shaming Romney for hiring dirty foreigners and investing abroad.

24) There are 2.58×10^7 references to Romney’s Swiss bank account over the course of the night, spread like smooth peanut butter across the white bread of class warfare.

25) Strickland: “If Mitt were Santa Clause, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.” And that would mean more kids could get presents, right? Returns on efficiency? Creative destruction? Nothing?


26) A lot of speakers hit Romney for wanting to let Detroit go bankrupt. For the zillionth time, OBAMA LET DETROIT GO BANKRUPT. He just paid off the unions first.

27) Strickland had a long riff about Romney “hiding” his tax returns. What’s he doing that’s so evil and vile he can’t show us? That sort of thing. Picked up right where Harry Reid left off.

28) Kathleen Sebelius Ponzi on one of the perks of Obamacare: “Instead of sending checks to your insurers, your insurers are sending checks to you.”

29) “From the President’s hometown of Chicago.” — Rahm, shamelessly dog-whistling.

30) Rahm again reminds us that Romney’s favored policy was burning Michigan to the ground and salting the earth, that nothing might grow there. 

31) I believe Sebelius credited Obama for courageously standing up for Medicare as it is. Of course, standing up for the Medicare status quo is literally the least politically courageous thing you can do in American politics.


33) Kal Penn makes invisible-chair reference, killing his chances of landing role in next Eastwood movie.

34) Commit dot Barack Obama dot com. Damn, I was really enjoying my respite from creepy Obama campaign gimmicks.

35) Paying close attention to Deval Patrick’s speech, as we’re likely to hear some of these lines again in POTUS’s on Thursday.

36) Patrick says Obama won’t be “bullied out of office.” Does he mean by voters? Or what?

37) Martin O’Malley asks a fair question “How much less education would be good for our children?” ANSWER IT, ROMNEY!

38) Julián Castro made for a fairly effective keynoter. I’d say slightly less effective rhetorically than Christie, but slightly more on message. Who knows if I’m being objective, but that’s how I saw it.

39) Castro tried to present the Democratic party as pro–free market. “Freedom isn’t free . . . but neither is opportunity” basically summed up the speech. A lot of it was tendentious or gauzy, or tendentiously gauzy. But there you have it.

40) Castro had a line about his folks holding mops so he could hold a microphone. Similar to Marco Rubio’s line about his father’s working at the back of convention halls as a bartender so he, Marco, could give speeches up front.

41) The video spot introing first lady Michelle Obama is effective as well, just like the Romney-family vids in Tampa. I think at this point it’s like the way cutting trailers has become such an exact science that you can make any kind of movie look like any other kind of movie.

42) The first lady’s speech spends a lot of time on her work with wounded warriors and military families. Admirable work to be sure, but honestly something I don’t remember ever associating her with. I wonder if the median voter knew that was a thing she did.

43) FLOTUS emphasizing how rough she and POTUS had it early on in life. Since roughly Abe Lincoln’s “Rail Splitter” days, early-life poverty has been a bipartisan virtue in politics.

44) Overall the speech is a little boilerplate and a little broad. The personal stuff aside, the rest of the speech was basically a bullet-point summary of the points other speakers made, minus the most controversial stuff. Not as good as the (second half of) the Ann Romney speech, but again who knows if I’m being objective. [Edit: Wrote that before she's starting to choke up in the ending section. It was effective!]

45) FLOTUS on POTUS: “Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.” Whoa. I think conservatives agree.

46) “For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” First off, can’t it be both? Second off, if you zeroed out their political careers, who do you think made a positive impact on more lives, Romney or Obama? Honest question.

47) Mrs. Obama: “For Barack, there is no such thing as us vs. them.” This is basically what sold America on Obama in 2008. But does anyone believe it anymore?

48) The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack makes an excellent point that I’ll sort of paraphrase. There were really two Night Ones. The first was pre–prime time, and it was aimed directly at the liberal base. It felt like 95 percent of it was about abortion. The second was prime-time, and it was softened up BIG TIME between Castro and the first lady.

49) But that first Night One was reaaaaaaallly liberal. My guess is that the convention is going to move generally to the center as we get toward Thursday. If it doesn’t, it would be a colossal blunder.

50) The double edge of the convention tone so far is that, in reminding Americans that Barack Obama has “accomplishments” — on health care, birth control, amnesty, DADT, etc. — they are also reminding Americans that Barack Obama is a liberal.

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