THE PUBLIC EYE: 5 Takeaways from the Democratic Convention

Bob Burnett
Friday July 29, 2016 - 09:55:00 AM

The 2016 Democratic convention concluded with Hillary Clinton’s paean to American exceptionalism. She contrasted “morning in America” with Donald Trump’s “the barbarians are at the gates.” In addition to the stark contrast in the vision of the two candidates, we learned five things at the conventions. 

1. Hillary Clinton was able to unite Democrats.Republicans came to Cleveland promising to unite around Trump. That didn’t happen. Cruz, Kasich, and the Bush family didn’t endorse Trump and he denounced them all. 

The Democratic convention started on low note with the DNC email scandal followed by the resignation of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. For a few hours on Monday it looked as if Democrats would battle on the convention floor. Then the Monday program started and comedian Sarah Silverman – previously a Bernie Sanders supporter – ad-libbed, “Can I just say, to the Bernie-or-Bust people, you are being ridiculous.” Her mocking words punctured the Bernie-or-Bust balloon. While a few Bernie supporters continued to be disruptive, the vast majority got behind Hillary Clinton. ( A Washington Post poll indicated that 90 percent of Bernie backers would support Clinton.) By Thursday night, the Democratic Party was unified. 

2. Clinton did a much better job organizing the Democratic convention than Trump did organizing the Republican convention. Each day of the Republican convention saw some epic screw up such as Melania Trump’s plagiarism or Ted Cruz failing to endorse Trump. 

In contrast each day of the Democratic convention worked well. Speakers kept to the script and stayed within the allotted time. As a result, the TV ratings for each night of the Democratic convention exceeded those of the Republican convention. 

The success of the Democratic convention is another indication that Hillary Clinton is a better manager than Donald Trump. 

3. If Trump doesn’t get the attention he wants, he will do something crazy. After the Republican convention, I wrote, “The GOP convention may give Trump a modest ratings bounce but it won’t last because he can’t stop acting crazy.” 

On Wednesday – evidently starved for attention – Trump asked Russia to hack Clinton’s emails. On Thursday, Trump said he felt like hitting convention speakers who disparaged him. (He followed this with a fundraising email begging recipients to not watch Hillary’s acceptance speech.) 

Clinton denigrated Trump’s character in her acceptance speech: “Imagine [Donald Trump] in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” 

4. Hillary has the credentials for the job, Trump doesn’t. During the Republican convention, the New York Times reported that Trump’s son, Donald Junior had approached Ohio Governor John Kasich about being Trump’s running mate. Trump Junior reported that, if he accepted, Kasich would be “the most powerful vice president in history;” Trump Junior explained that Kasich would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy. When queried what job “President” Trump would do, Trump Junior explained, “Making America great again.” 

Wednesday night at the Democratic convention, billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg observed: ““Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business? God help us.” Bloomberg went on to recommend voting for Hillary Clinton, “a sane, competent person.” 

5. Democrats have become the Party of Reagan. The conventions witnessed an unexpected role reversal: Republicans became the party of godless pessimism. Democrats became the party of hope and optimism; the party that believes, like Ronald Reagan, that “it’s morning in America.” 

Unique to a modern Republican presidential speech, Trump never mentioned God. Instead he mentioned himself, over and over; notably “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” 

At the Democratic convention, participants chanted, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine, touted their religious background and their lifelong commitment to public service. Michelle Obama reminded us all America “is the greatest country on earth.” Barack Obama reintroduced the “audacity of hope.” And Hillary said Americans face a choice, “We have to decide whether we all will work together so we all can rise together.” 

It was a stark contrast: Republican gloom and authoritarianism versus Democratic optimism and community spirit – “Let’s be stronger together.” 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at