A tumultuous first day of the Democratic National Convention is in the books. I watched, tweeted and, candidly, ate and drank. (I mean, it was a long day.)
My take on the best and worst of the night that was is below.
–Michelle Obama: An absolute homerun. Period. It will be difficult for anyone in the next three days to deliver a better speech than the First Lady did on Monday night. She used her personal story of raising two young African-American girls in the White House to tie her husband’s history-making presidency to the history-making bid of Hillary Clinton. She was poised, calm and convincing. When she teared up talking about what it would mean to her, Malia and Sasha to see a woman elected president, it was an instantly memorable moment.
Remember this, too: Michelle Obama is not a politician. She has not run for any office – yet. It is not easy to get up and deliver a heartfelt, effective speech in front of a bunch of rowdy delegates and millions of people watching at home. Michelle Obama did it with an ease that suggests she may not be on the sidelines of the political game for much longer.
–Bernie Sanders: The Vermont Democratic Socialist who, before this presidential campaign, existed on the outskirts of American politics, received a hero’s welcome when he emerged as the final speaker of Monday night. The applause lasted for three minutes. People in the crowd cried. And then Sanders delivered much of his now-familiar stump speech – revolutionary change, millionaires and billionaires, economic justice – with a sprinkling of “Hillary Clinton” on top. Sanders’s speech was, essentially, a confirmation that he was right about almost everything and Clinton now understood that fact. It was, generally, fine – if too long. Still, Sanders was able, largely, to avoid a moment when his supporters booed, jeered or otherwise protested the idea that Clinton had won the nomination fair and square. That plus the amazing response he received at the start of the speech made it a good night for him.
–Stephanie Rawlings Blake: The mayor of Baltimore benefited from the fact that she was not Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She received a massive cheer when she emerged to open the convention – a huge moment in the spotlight for Rawlings Blake. And, yes, she forgot to actually gavel the convention. But she more than made up for it with an epic reaction when she realized what she had done.
–Sarah Silverman: Conventions tend to be programmatic affairs. Even when there is behind-the-scenes drama, every effort is made to show a smiling face to the public. It’s like a duck — all smooth grace about the waterline and all paddling below it. Kudos to Silverman for breaking down the fourth wall and acknowledging the fight between Clinton and Sanders forces. Her line – “To the ‘Bernie or bust’ people: You’re being ridiculous” – will be one of the memorable lines of the convention. And it was spontaneous.
–Debbie Wasserman Schultz: A total disaster of a day for the soon-to-be-former chair of the Democratic National Committee. First she was booed and heckled at a Florida delegation breakfast. Then she was pushed out of any formal role at the convention – for fear that she would, again, be booed but this time in front of a national TV audience. Rumors flew as to whether she would be fleeing back to Florida or trying to stick out the week. Whether she stays or goes, this was a very, very, very bad day for Wasserman Schultz.
–Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator has a tough task – following Michelle Obama who absolutely brought the house down. But, this was still a crowd primed to love her. The speech Warren delivered just didn’t cut it – a cookie-cutter recitation of Democratic principles followed by a laundry list of attacks against Donald Trump. People insisted to me that she was “building up” to a major moment at the end of the speech but, if it happened, I missed it entirely. Warren’s speech reminded me of something I noticed during her 2012 Senate campaign. She is a beloved figure more for her resume than her charisma or her natural abilities as a speaker. Warren wasn’t terrible. But she was far from a standout Monday night.
–Cory Booker: Sometimes you want to make fetch happen so badly that you ensure it doesn’t happen. That’s what happened to the New Jersey senator on Monday night. He was clearly aiming to make a moment, to use his speech as a launchpad for his national ambitions. The speech was well written and competently delivered. But, it felt too rehearsed, too plotted – and, without question, way, way too long. The speech could have been half as long and twice as good.
–Al Franken: The Minnesota senator has worked very hard since being elected to the Senate in 2008 to avoid being the funny guy that he portrayed during his time on “Saturday Night Live.” On Monday night, Franken let loose – delivering a comedy routine aimed at poking holes in Donald Trump’s resume and qualifications. I say comedy because that was clearly Franken’s intent – if not what he accomplished. Doing comedy off a teleprompter is not exactly a recipe for success and Franken is, clearly, very funny. But his routine fell flat. Once he transitioned to a more traditional stump speech, Franken was far better.
— Susan Sarandon: Yes, she was adamantly with Bernie Sanders during the primaries. But if you are going to go the convention, try to have a little fun!