Yesterday’s convention proceedings had two goals: to emphasize Hillary Clinton’s decades as a “change maker” and to highlight the historic nature of her candidacy.
The story of her work over the years was told in five different sections of the evening program, culminating in Bill Clinton’s speech that used Hillary’s biography to highlight her multiple dimensions in contrast to the two-dimensional “cartoon” developed by her political critics. That speech was bookended by two sections of the program about the historical nature of the nomination: the roll call itself that made Clinton the nominee and a closing multimedia sequence in which Meryl Streep (in her words), Alicia Keys (in her song) and a film emphasized the history-making moment.
This made for a somewhat disjointed day in the hall, as the energy of the roll call had faded a bit by the end of the evening when Hillary Clinton arrived in the hall via video to note she had “broken the glass ceiling.” But, it meant that both themes were part of prime time coverage of the events.
Typically, the roll call is much like a small town 4th of July parade: everyone knows how it will turn out, but there are moments of levity along the way. As Rachel Maddow put it, “It’s a cross between taking attendance, “This is Your Life,” diner placemat state capitol trivia, and the announcer screaming ‘Goooooooooool!'” However, yesterday’s roll call had several moments of real drama and emotion connected to it: Bernie Sanders’s brother honoring their parents in casting his Americans Abroad delegate vote for Sanders, a 102-year-old woman casting Clinton’s votes in Arizona, and, of course, Bernie Sanders request at the end to suspend the rules and formally nominate Clinton.
At the Republican National Convention last week, speeches by Donald Trump’s family members were criticized for generally lacking personal stories about the GOP nominee. Bill Clinton’s speech went the other direction as he told the story of his relationship with Hillary — much of it tied to Arkansas — at length. Indeed, it felt a little long to those who know the basic story well, but his closing section, which used that biography to make the case for her being a “change maker,” was quite effective.
The big question of the day is the same question that has persisted from the start of the convention: What role will Sanders supporters play for the second half of the proceedings? Many Sanders delegates left after the roll call yesterday, leaving a number of seats on the floor, particularly in larger delegations. Will they return for the remainder of the sessions or skip out? If they skip, what happens to their credentials? It is crucial for the optics of a modern convention to have a totally full — and fully enthused — room? Much of this mornings’ delegate breakfast was dedicated to that issue.
On tap for the Arkansas Democrats this afternoon: a reception with Bill Clinton and a large crew of national figures, including outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, before the return to the Wells-Fargo Center for a packed night of speeches.