Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the DNC, Night 1

The stage of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Welcome, I guess, to my New York live-blog of the two conventions of 2016. Settle in, calm your nerves (mine will be frayed enough for all of us), have a drink (or a joint), and enjoy!

If you want to send me your thoughts as the events proceed, email me at (if you’re a recovering dishhead, you can also always use the old email address). Please refresh to update.

11:33 p.m.

11:27 p.m. My final take? A rough and unappealing start but a stellar speech from Michelle Obama and a revival of Obama’s core message from Cory Booker. The first lady’s speech was one that will actually win over undecided or queasy voters. It reaches every parent in their gut. It’s a message that could win the election. The stakes have never been higher in my lifetime. See you tomorrow night.

11:22 p.m. This is getting pedestrian. And scene!

You know, I didn’t cover this primary election but watching some of these Bernie supporters throw various hissy fits, I wonder if I would have found myself backing Clinton. I understand the passion but they sure come off as assholes. Sanders himself was far better – poised, happy to have swung the debate his way, and endorsing Clinton without any serious caveats at all.

11:16 p.m. He’s ticking off every policy area in his campaign and linking Clinton to them. I have a feeling he’s not going to tell the delegates merely to “vote your conscience.”

11:12 p.m. Tears amid the nose-rings. And Bernie combed his hair!

11:11 p.m. Bernie’s going hard on not sitting out this election. And now he’s now directly appealing to the young.

11:07 p.m. Are the Bernie peeps even heckling Bernie? It’s a rowdy crowd. But he’s onto waste water-plants.

11:06 p.m. A nice reminder of what Obama inherited. A full-throated endorsement of Clinton.

11:04 p.m. Imagine: Analysis! Substance! Argument! Agree or not, his sincerity is palpable. And all those weepy millennials in the audience. Is this Reagan in 1976?

10:57 p.m. True:

10:56 p.m. Heh:

10:51 p.m. A huge ovation for Sanders. The most noise for anyone at either convention, I’d say. Hard to believe even Hillary will get this kind of ovation.

10:49 p.m. More Simon and Garfunkel in that beautiful ad to introduce Bernie.

10:47 p.m. Not a single word about foreign policy tonight. From anyone. Or terrorism.

10:43 p.m. Warren seems a little fazed by the, yes, ridiculous heckling. It’s a substantive speech but spoken conversationally and quietly. I’m not sure it’s that effective.

10:41 p.m.

10:37 p.m. For those Bernie-mad hecklers:

10:34 p.m. The California delegation was heckling Warren with “We Trusted You!” These Bernie die-hards are a tough nut to swallow.

10:32 p.m. A reader writes:

I too am an ex-conservative looking for a home and was very concerned by the start of this night with a fear it was playing to the hands of Trump.

Maybe I’m being a pollyanna, but I am struck by the difference between this Monday and last. Between Booker’s call for a bright future and the need to be together, and Michelle Obama’s vision to Giuliani’s “they are coming to kill us” I’m struck and wondering when the roles reversed. It used to be the the Republicans (Reagan and even Bush 1) who painted a picture of Americans at their best, and the Democrats who put forth cynicism and fear. I realize these are just words tonight and there is much work – but the visions painted between this week and last paint the picture of what is at stake.

10:28 p.m. Finally, someone is relating the mood of economic and social frustration and anxiety to actual policies.

“The system is rigged.” “So-called experts.” Some populism in the house. The first reference to the millions of people who now have healthcare who had none before Obama.

10:27 p.m. Was someone heckling Warren? She’s oddly quiet, although she had a very very tough act to follow.

10:26 p.m. True this – and staggering:

10:23 p.m. Another pander to identity politics: a Kennedy!

10:18 p.m. “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” Wow. “This right now is the greatest country on earth.”

This is the American story we all know in our hearts and that this hideous, hateful egomaniac is trying to rob us of. We must not let him. “We need to do what we did eight years and four years ago.” This is a fantastic endorsement. Hard to know who will be able to beat it.

10:16 p.m. She’s killing this:

10:14 p.m. “When crisis hits, we do not turn on each other … because we are always stronger together.” A week ago, Rudy Giuliani was screaming.

10:12 p.m. This is the most persuasive case I’ve heard yet for Hillary Clinton: “She has never quit on anything in her life.”

10:09 p.m. A defense of propriety and dignity and manners – for the children of America. This is not left or right. This is about the question: “Who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives?” Genius.

10:08 p.m.

10:07 p.m. The crowd goes silent for Michelle. Finally a speaker who has fully captured the whole, vast crowd.

10:00 p.m. Now a victim of Trump University – who is a military widow. “He made millions of dollars off people like me.” It’s a powerful message and an honest one: “I was embarrassed.” She has nothing against getting rich. But she was scammed. Trump is someone “who will do anything for himself, no matter who it hurts.” A solid, moving testimony.

9:59 p.m. Nagourney:

Just for the record: This place is way more crowded than it ever was for the Trump campaign. People are sitting on steps and in the aisles. A lot of that, again, is we have big-name speakers coming up. But it’s really different.

9:57 p.m. “In America, love always trumps hate.” The key thing is: “In America …” This was a very Obama-style speech and message. The question is whether the DNC can summon this spirit without Obama.

9:52 p.m. Booker’s speech is great but too long. And the crowd seems distracted, and he keeps shouting. But this is good: “We go from an already great America to an even greater America.”

9:48 p.m. Corey Booker challenges Trump by citing Lincoln: “With malice toward none.” That’s more like it.

9:46 p.m.

9:43 p.m. Finally something other than smug, lame leftism. “Stronger together.” This is Obama’s legacy. It can win another election. And it is the best way to show up Trump’s foul divisiveness.

9:40 p.m. Booker actually touting America’s history. “The high call of patriotism.” This is a stronger theme.

9:39 p.m.

9:36 p.m. “The most qualified person ever to run for president!” In a change election, that is not a winning slogan.

9:34 p.m. Eva Longoria also argues there is no difference between legal and illegal immigrants. Are the Democrats going to abolish the USCIS? Given the rhetoric at this convention, I don’t see why not.

9:30 p.m. A reader writes:

If unity is the theme, then where is the Garfunkel? I ask you, where is the Garfunkel, damnit?

9:29 p.m. Well this is a hot mess.

9:25 p.m. Paul Simon attempting a Garfunkel falsetto! Ouch!

9:21 p.m. Oh I get it now. She’s a Bernie fan endorsing Hillary. Intra-party attempt at healing. But now Silverman has ad-libbed a political jibe at the Sanders supporters. And the Bernie dead-enders are going nuts. This is now a train-wreck.

Why have two comedians attempting a healing-fest? And now they are telling us that they have to keep talking. Are they not even professionals? Oy.

9:19 p.m. This is why I can’t watch the Oscars. So much lefty smug. Why is Sarah Silverman still talking?

9:15 p.m. A reader is exactly where I am:

I left the Republican party last week after 20 years of voting for, working for, and giving to its candidates. I forgot why I was for it. I heard nothing about the rule of law, limited government, or free enterprise. It has become a grotesque alternation between ambiguous bigotry and overt bigotry; I wanted nothing to do with it. I almost forgot why I am a conservative.

Tonight it is all coming rushing back to me. Is there nowhere to go for someone who is pro-immigrant and pro-rule of law? Also, this parade of identity politics is condescending and embarrassing for everyone participating. Why can’t we just treat people like people? It would be nice if the Democrats had some African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, or women speak who did not think that their race/orientation/sex was the only interesting thing about themselves or even the most interesting thing about themselves. Couldn’t they have had a disabled girl who was not so entirely predictably and tediously just another flavor of victim?

I remain politically homeless.

Me too. But we nonetheless have to back the Clintons this time. The survival of liberal democracy is in the balance.

9:11 p.m. A reader writes:

Although I understand the strategy of revealing Trump’s hypocrisy regarding outsourcing, these speakers seem to be missing the point by bashing all outsourcing. When Trump exclaimed that he is for “Americanism, not globalism,” the response from Democrats should be to defend smart globalism! But instead, Democrats in this convention are insisting that Trump is correct about globalism but Hillary is the true Americanism candidate.

That’s the classic Clinton defensive crouch. Instead of forthrightly defending global trade, and touting America’s success in the world economy, they try and out-Trump Trump. But you cannot out-Trump Trump. You have to fight back with a solid counter-argument. The lesson of the Brexit referendum is that you have to address the actual concerns and counter them with confidence. If all you rely on is fear, then the man with the most fear will win.

Clinton needs an argument; a clear set of policies; and to stop being so defensive and reactive. I fear it is simply beyond her.

9:10 p.m.

9:06 p.m. Okay I have tears in my eyes over this. A beautiful tribute by Anastasia Somoza to Clinton. “I honestly feel bad for someone with that much hate in their heart.” Donald Trump “doesn’t hear me and doesn’t see me.”

9:04 p.m. Now a video focusing on Trump’s mockery of a reporter with disability. This tests through the roof, I’m told. And it’s an emotional pitch which in this case is completely justified.

9:02 p.m.

That seems to be the impression of the CNN panel as well.

8:58 p.m.

8:55 p.m. Al Franken makes a few not-so-great jokes about Trump University. He has one useful trope: “Trump has never done anything for anyone but himself.”

8:50 p.m. Gillibrand makes the case for family leave. Underwhelming. But another box checked.

8:46 p.m. A short little video reprising a fraction of the avalanche of Trump’s neanderthal statements about women.

8:43 p.m. Chillicothe is on the rise! An Ohio pol – a little wet-behind-the-ears – touts small business, and mocks Trump for stiffing small businesses when they bill him. Helpful. And a nice break from all the identity politics pandering.

8:37 p.m. Bob Casey is accusing Trump of outsourcing jobs with his merchandise. Decent point from a Pennsylvania senator. Now, he’s touting his state’s manufacturing prowess. “The man who says he wants to make America great makes nothing in America!”

8:36 p.m. Wow. A white man! They let one speak!

8:30 p.m. A veteran hails the end of the Clintons’ own policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And cites progress from the time the Clintons endorsed the Defense Of Marriage Act. And just for the record: there is no such thing as the “LGBTQ” “community”. It’s a fiction designed for political purposes. But again, so far, there is simply a litany of sub-populations to pander to. We’re back to the 1980s, aren’t we?

8:28 p.m. Clinton is now checking off the BLT community. This is a pander-thon so far.

8:26 p.m. A reader writes:

Andrew, it is not crude to give voice to the real fears so many children in this country have. I continue to volunteer with 3rd graders at a Title 1 school, heavily Hispanic (80%), many with parents here illegally. This a real fear my kiddos have. It breaks my heart. And at times they tell me that their Tio or a friend’s abuela (etc.) has to go back to Mexico / Honduras / Whatever. They have valid worries.

There are better ways of conveying this than emotional blackmail. But, hey, I know they are battling feelings with feelings. The whole abandonment of public reasoning is what worries me. If you’re banking on emotions, fear always wins.

8:24 p.m.

8:23 p.m. Nate Silver’s reality check:

There’s a lot of enthusiasm for Sanders in the hall, perhaps more than there is for Clinton.

But contrary to those earlier reports, there wasn’t a lot of booing when Clinton’s name was mentioned. Certainly, there were some boos coming from some delegations, some of the time — California and Michigan, in particular, and were relatively vocal. But this was in isolated pockets. The booers were usually drowned out by cheers for Clinton, sometimes enthusiastic cheers, especially if the speaker was keeping people engaged.

8:20 p.m. An African-American NBA coach points out the hideous example of Donald Trump when it comes to raising kids. Bonus: his brother is a member of the BLT community!

8:19 p.m.

8:15 p.m. Gutierrez completely elides any distinction between legal and illegal immigration. His argument against bigotry against newcomers to America is powerful and necessary, but seems dedicated to missing the point. The best case against Trump also takes seriously the importance of controlling the border, as Obama has actually done. But that kind of obvious nuance is missing from both conventions, as liberalism cedes to neo-fascism and leftism, respectively.

8:12 p.m. So far, a passionate, sustained attempt to rally Latino votes against mass deportation.

8:09 p.m. Now a solid video reminding us of the foul rhetoric and neo-fascist policies of Donald Trump.

8:08 p.m. Ten minutes in and there has been more Spanish spoken than English.

8:07 p.m.

8:04 p.m. The DNC is now using a child whose parents are under threat of deportation. As crude and emotional a gambit as we saw at the RNC.

8:00 p.m. Those of us who were relieved by the not-so-great delivery of Trump’s deftly framed acceptance speech last Thursday night are not so relieved today. Trump has a pretty normal post-convention bounce, putting him essentially neck and neck with Clinton. The Russian hack of DNC emails – timed to advance Trump’s pro-Kremlin candidacy – has exposed how deeply the Clintons have controlled this whole process from the start through their puppet, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (and how profoundly Putin wants Trump to win). The die-hard Bernie fans are now actually copying the deeply ugly “Lock Her Up!” chants of Cleveland. They’re even booing Sanders when he makes the case for uniting against Trump.

So the theme of this Monday is “Crooked Hillary.” Could Trump have crafted this day any better? At the same time, a candidate who openly called for mass deportation, war crimes, disbanding NATO and a trade war is now ahead in Nate Silver’s “now-cast” of polling results. The great unknowable about America is what would happen if fascism were actually on the ballot. It’s never happened before. But if you thought fascism would be taboo, the American people are proving you wrong.

So the Clintons have a real task ahead this week. They have to keep the focus on the unique and unprecedented threat that Donald Trump poses to liberal democracy and constitutional order. They also have to give us enough Hillary Clinton to reassure us she’s a viable president, but not so much that the vast numbers of people who distrust her start wishing for anyone else.

She needs Obama. She needs Sanders. And she needs Kaine. She needs the political skills of her husband (because she has almost none) and she needs a message as clear as “I’m With You,” or “Make America Great Again.” She needs to explain simply what her presidency would achieve, what its goals are, what its core message is. So far, she hasn’t. She has four days to make a start.

Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the DNC, Night 1