The Democrats wrapped up their convention tonight. Like the Republican convention, this one had its ups and downs, along with more turmoil than probably was expected. But I believe that, like the Republican convention, this one will produce a decently large bounce for the nominee — in this case Hillary Clinton.
I believe this for two reasons. First, Hillary received the benefit of what (by all accounts) were strong speeches by the Obamas, and President Obama has a positive approval rating now. Second, the Dems were able to pound Donald Trump. Republicans gave Trump a pass on the ludicrous policy pronouncements and offensive remarks cited by Democrats at the convention, but the electorate as a whole will likely be much less inclined forgiving.
However, if I’m wrong and there is no real bounce, Hillary is in big trouble. The Democrats couldn’t have done more to boost her than it did this week. If the playbook proves inadequate, Trump will become the favorite in this election.
What about Hillary’s speech? It too had its ups and downs. On the whole, I think it was average at best.
The speech had four parts. The first part, a very lengthy build-up to accepting the nomination, was weak. It consisted mostly of poorly delivered mush about “working together.” It also included an incoherent history lesson about what our Founders did (working together, of course) in Philadelphia.
Here, Hillary seemed to skip back and forth between the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the writing of the Constitution. At one point, she delivered perhaps the lamest line I’ve ever heard in an acceptance speech: “Some [in Philadelphia] wanted to stick with the King and some wanted to stick it to the King.” This was Hillary in her most annoying high school teacher mode.
The second part of the speech began when Hillary said that “some people just don’t know what to make of me.” That’s wishful thinking. The American public seems pretty clear about that. They don’t like her and they don’t trust her.
However, in pivoting to her “personal story,” Hillary quickly began to pick up steam. She was comfortable talking about herself.
Hillary cast herself in a favorable light. More importantly, I think, the video that introduced her (narrated brilliantly by Morgan Freeman, it sounded like), which relied heavily on strong testimony from Barack Obama among others, did a great job of casting her favorably.
It’s not easy to believe that Hillary — even aided by slick videos and strong testimonials — can alter her image at this late date. But the Dems have made a strong attempt.
The last two parts of her speech consisted of a blistering attack on Donald Trump and a lengthy list of promises, many of which involved free stuff. These bits were fine for what they were, but while Hillary delivered them, the mask came off. No more smiles; no more goofy expressions. Instead, we saw the real Hillary — steely, unsmiling, and rather scary looking.
Good thing for the GOP that, by contrast, it nominated an affable, non-threatening fellow.
At various points during her speech, the crowd chanted “Hillary, Hillary” in the middle of her lines. It did so to drown out the portion of the Sanders delegates that was booing and/or shouting at her. Like the Republicans, the Democrats were unable at their convention to produce the level of unity normally associated with these shindigs.
The C-SPAN broadcast rarely put the cameras on booing delegates, and the booing was mostly drowned out by pro-Hillary chanting. The broadcast treated us instead to endless shots of gushing husband Bill and images of delegates reaching ecstasy during Clinton’s money lines. I did see a WikiLeaks sign, however. That problem isn’t going away.
There was also booing, and very little cheering, when Clinton spoke of supporting Israel. Hillary may turn out to be the last Democratic presidential nominee ever to put in a good word for Israel during a convention speech. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that her policies towards Israel will be any better than Obama’s. It just means she wants Jewish votes.
It would be pointless for me to take on the policy content of speech. But I think it’s worth observing that there is a tension between (1) all of her happy talk about “working together” and inviting Republicans to join her campaign, as she did several times and (2) the inherent divisiveness of some of the leftist policies she advocated, which were intended in part to keep the Sanders supporters happy.
This tension will grow more pronounced if and when Hillary has to answer real questions, as opposed to reading a scripted and, presumably, focus-group tested speech
So, did Hillary help herself tonight? Maybe, but if so only marginally in my view.
As I said, though, I suspect that this week will help her more than marginally. Let’s see what the post-convention polls say.