First Night of the DNC: A TV & Twitter Review

Did you watch it last night? It was an amazing night of TV, of Twitter (that instant snark convo), and of politics. My twitter feed was full of journos saying to each other: Wow, there’s a lot of energy here! Don’t you feel more buzz than in Tampa? I thought this was supposed to be the dispirited convention, but these folks are excited. You could see that in every breakaway shot of the convention floor: Folks were cheering, nodding, yelling back in witness. Over and over again, the Dems boasted proudly about standing up for health care, equal pay, LGBT rights (including the freedom to marry), and yes, reproductive rights, without apology. (CNN political commentator Erick Erickson got roundly swatted for tweeting, "First night of the Vagina Monologues in Charlotte going as expected.") Whoa. Way to respect your lady viewers!

But he was right about this: The Dems were indeed standing up for the ladies’ power over their own bodies and paychecks. Up on stage, the speeches were just on fire, one after another. Every speech topped the previous one. Early in the night, Stacy Lihn—an “ordinary person”—gave true-life tearjerker testimony to “Obamacare,” which the Dems have now proudly claimed as a term. The Affordable Care Act, she said, is saving her daughter’s life: Her toddler has already needed three open-heart surgeries and would bump up against her insurance’s lifetime cap on coverage if that element of the ACA is repealed—and would probably die. Who can come up with $600,000 out of pocket for surgery every year? Isn’t that the point of insurance: to share the risk and costs with everyone else who might have, but (knock on wood) did not, pull that bad card from the deck?

Soon after Lihn, we heard former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland SHOUTING AT US so relentlessly that the twitterati QUOTED HIM IN ALL CAPS. Despite the shouting, he tossed out such searing populist word bombs that, at that moment, it seemed he’d be the big story of the night. The most-quoted:

Mitt Romney never saw the point of building something when he could profit from tearing it down. If Mitt was Santa Claus, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.

Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.

There were a couple of snoozers after that. Then Lilly Ledbetter—she of the Fair Pay Act—got up and testified with Baptist fire, preaching to the choir, getting witnesses to her every claim. (Those bosses who refused to give her a raise must rue the day.) Her big moment, as chronicled by The Wall Street Journal:

But, Ms. Ledbetter said, women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Building up her volume,  Ms. Ledbetter said,  “Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account and a Cayman Island investment.” That reference to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney touched off a wave of applause that drowned out her speech. …

“But Gov. Romney, when we lose 23 cents every hour every day every month,” she said, “it cannot just be measured in dollars.”

(By the night’s end, a watching alien might have reasonably assumed that the Democrats plan to declare war on Switzerland; those Swiss bank accounts were quite the useful rhetorical target.)

Ledbetter’s 23-cents line rocketed across the Twitterverse. And she rocked the house.

Unbelievably, so did my usually mild-mannered, second-term Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, of all people, who preached in thundering cadences, the best speech several of us Bay Staters had ever heard him give (cf: said Dan Kennedy, Boston-area media watcher). He took apart Romney’s Massachusetts governing record—saying more about it than Romney has—with this paragraph:

In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney. By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation--during better economic times--and household income in our state was declining. He cut education deeper than anywhere else in America. Roads and bridges were crumbling. Business taxes were up, and business confidence was down. Our clean energy potential was stalled. And we had a structural budget deficit. Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he’s fixed. I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn’t one of them. He’s a fine fellow and a great salesman, but as governor he was more interested in having the job than doing it.

The Twitters endlessly quoted him saying, “It’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe.” But it was the preacher’s thunder that most startled me.

You’ve already read Abby Rapoport’s thoughtful and accurate report on Julian Castro’s and Michelle Obama’s speeches. Suffice it to say that both of them kept up the thunder, although in quieter tones. She didn’t have to say she loved women; she said instead that the Democrats invested in women. (See Erickson tweet, above.) Half the political commentators I follow nominated her for 2016, about which Salon’s king of snark Alex Pareene wrote:

Michelle Obama gave a really, really good speech last night, and whenever anyone gives a really good speech at a political convention all the reporters and pundits in America all immediately have the same thought: THIS PERSON SHOULD DEFINITELY RUN FOR PRESIDENT.

My guess is that she wants to run something, rather than run for something. The ladies in my Twitter feed complained about her declaration that she was “mom-in-chief” and her failure to mention anything about her own high-powered professional life. But every political spouse surely learned, from how HIllary Clinton was pilloried back in the day for sneering at momhood, what her job was. Michelle Obama made it less yucky than most do, turning her tiny scalpel exquisitely into Ann Romney's and Mitt Romney's stories without even mentioning them by name, eviscerating their display of values, including the applause line “Success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives.” She laid out the values of hard-working poor people and working people and middle-class people who work hard so their children can get ahead, and made it clear that she and her husband know about that because they lived it. It was an awe-inspiring performance. Do yourself a favor, if you missed it, and watch it. They were ready to kiss her stilettos out there.

It was a fiery night.

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