early and often

Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the DNC, Night 4

The stage of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/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 sully@nymag.com (if you’re a recovering dishhead, you can also always use the old email address). Please refresh to update.

11:54 p.m.

I’m done now. Thanks to everyone who showed up and followed along. It was just like the good old days, wasn’t it? Peeps keep asking me if I’ll be live-blogging the debates. Imma smoke up now and think about it.

11:53 p.m. And there is this:

11:51 p.m. Lolz:

11:28 p.m. I’ll happily use my first vote as an American for her. But this was a work-horse-type speech that had only a few good lines. She didn’t screw it up – but she didn’t soar either. She owned her wonkishness well; she knocked Trump for being a small, insecure and angry man; and she is completely credible as a commander-in-chief. But did she reach out and connect with those who have never really connected with her? We’ll see.

It didn’t connect with me. It was a theme-free pudding delivered by someone you can respect but not exactly warm to. She’s not really at ease speaking in public, and it shows. I get that this is actually her appeal to some: that she’s a detail-oriented pol who works best off the public stage. But a president does need to connect, to inspire and to rally. She may well grow more into this role, or we’ll simply have to deal with prose rather than poetry from here on out. But it didn’t do it for me. And I’m not gonna lie.

My best spin on this is that this convention was the opposite of the last one in one respect: last week built up to the lone savior; this week really was an assembly of voices, of perspectives, of surrogates and allies. Yes, its theme “Stronger Together” was exemplified by its structure. In that sense, she doesn’t need to be an Obama-style icon or a charmer like her husband. She just had to prove she can put together a really competent and well-crafted convention, and will run a sane, competent administration. And she did that. For voters who have doubts about Trump’s capacity to organize a booze-up in a brewery, this was a reassuring speech. I’m not saying it was a failure. It just wasn’t a breakthrough.

I should address the gender thing. Readers lambasted me for every criticism of her speaking style on feminist grounds. And I understand how Clinton carries an enormous weight as the first woman presidential candidate that makes the usual criticisms of her – that she’s pedestrian, uninspiring, and hectoring at times – sound sexist.

But there were many, many women in this convention who spoke far more memorably than she did, who held the crowd in more rapt attention, who were able to modulate their speeches in ways that helped people understand their message better. This is not, in other words, a woman problem; it’s a Hillary Clinton problem. She simply doesn’t have certain gifts of oratory and connection with people that other more natural politicians do. It’s a weakness in a presidential candidate.

There will be a gender gap in this election of possibly huge proportions. I suspect Trump will turn off more women than Clinton turns off men. But it will be close.

11:25 p.m. I’m not the only one watching this serviceable speech:

11:23 p.m. “America is great because America is good.”

11:20 p.m. It took a while – but I think she’s getting into a groove now. And she’s not in a defensive crouch on guns or race. This is not the Clinton of the 1990s.

11:18 p.m. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can entrust with our nuclear codes.” Best line yet.

11:17 p.m. A nice touch to reach out and embrace Pence’s son in the military.

11:13 p.m. On national security she has a better voice. Calmer, more masterful. Granular. Assured. This is an important moment in which she slaps the crazy guy down.

11:08 p.m. A direct pitch to those struggling to find work without a college degree. And a massive infrastructure plan she says will be bigger than anything since World War II. She’s getting a little better, a little looser.

11:06 p.m. A joke!

11:03 p.m. A reader writes:

Not sure if you know about all the Hillary Facebook groups that are designed to allow people to celebrate their love of Hillary without the constant criticism. If you could see the thousands of posts from women weeping on those Facebook pages right now. We are with her. Like so many of us, we are doers and not good at marketing ourselves. We see ourselves in her. People need to realize that the thing she doesn’t have is not as important as what she does have. She cannot sell herself. But she is so smart, so dedicated, so passionate, and will not rest so long as there is work to do.

11:02 p.m. Pretty much sums it up:

11:00 p.m. This is a critical passage in which she reaches out to those who feel left behind by this economy – and the focus on respect for working people is essential. And an important concession to the restless: “You’re right.” More, please.

10:58 p.m. Best line yet:

10:55 p.m. A reader writes:

I flinch at your description of Hillary sounding as if she’s sternly correcting a school-room. It’s just one of many female stereotypes and roles we draw upon when we hear a tone of voice, see a particular expression, or try to interpret the actions of women in historically male-dominated leadership roles like this. Think of the asshats who called Obama out on having his feet up in the Oval Office but forgot about the exact same posture in Bush. Just keep it in mind – we women work hard to be taken seriously and these statements wound our efforts.

10:54 p.m. This is a good defense of being a wonk interested in details. The best riff of this so-far weak effort.

10:51 p.m. Me too:

10:48 p.m. A smile! Almost a human one!

10:43 p.m. Finally, a great line about “I alone can fix it.” Thank God. I have to disagree with Fallows:

Modulation? Not from my couch. But the riff on “we can fix it together” is helpful.

10:41 p.m. And we head into a thicket of prose … and she keeps looking as if she’s sternly correcting a school-room.

10:40 p.m. Yes, she’s doing FDR. As I wanted. I hope to God they’re not reading me.

10:32 p.m. Does Bill have tears in his eyes?

10:29 p.m. Deep breath.

10:20 p.m. In this God-filled convention, who else but Morgan Freeman?

10:14 p.m. Heh:

10:12 p.m. Maybe this dreadful piece of pampered, maudlin smug is designed so that Hillary will seem riveting in contrast. I can hope, can’t I?

10:11 p.m. If you need waking up:


10:08 p.m. I’m finding myself tuning out Chelsea. Can she speed it up a little?

10:02 p.m. Just an FYI: Fox News cut away from the father of the fallen Muslim soldier. Of course they did.

9:59 p.m. A reader writes:

The Democrats are doing something that was, until today, almost unthinkable: they’re reclaiming faith. For so long, religion has been the exclusive provenance of the Republicans. But with Trump as their figurehead, the Republicans have ceded that territory. And what’s amazing, and so very very hopeful, is that in acknowledging Muslims as patriots, the Dems have cracked open the carapace of Christian evangelicalism.

I say this as an atheist: this is one of the most hopeful and promising elements of Hillary’s campaign.

9:52 p.m. Heh:

9:50 p.m. A reader writes:

The GOP must be shitting themselves. The Dems are taking everything – family values, patriotism, love of the military, the founding fathers and the constitution – in addition to everything they already own. If the GOP loses this election they’re left with… hate and ignorance.

Don’t forget torture and trade wars.

9:48 p.m. Is this blowhard supposed to introduce Chelsea Clinton? He’s taking all the air out of the balloon.

9:46 p.m. The Republicans are so quick to call any opponent an appeaser. What word other than appeasement would be more fitting to describe the way the RNC dealt with Trump?

9:38 p.m. A reader writes:

I live in Sydney, Australia. I’m not an American citizen but truly believe that this election is not just a matter for democracy in America, but for democracies across the world.

Here in Australia we have already seen the re-election of Pauline Hanson, a One Nation senator who has adopted both the rhetoric of Trump and his policy for banning all Muslim immigration. Last week we had two media personalities announce their support for such a ban, making their own stand against ‘political correctness’ whilst spouting their right to free speech.

His position as the Republican nominee has already had far reaching consequences on the global stage, and his toxicity is spreading. Americans need to remember that people across the world are looking to them to stop Trump, people who have no control over the outcome of the American election but who will have deal with the inevitable consequences. It’s astonishing and horrifying that he has got this far.

9:36 p.m. Arlington:

9:34 p.m. Meanwhile, in Iowa, Trump is touting war crimes:

It’s a war crime. And he’s telling us he wouldn’t even think about not forcing a soldier to violate the laws of war to do it.

9:32 p.m. A reader writes:

Re your post at 8.39: I’m surprised there hasn’t been more comment on the way he is positively turned on by violence. Thanks for mentioning it now. Not only would he allow torture, the killing of relatives etc., I can’t help thinking he’s actually thirsting for it. It is also a good part of the reason he envies Putin so much.

It’s worth recalling that iconic photograph of the lone protestor facing down a tank in Tiananmen Square. Trump, remember, was on the side of the tank.

9:27 p.m. “America will defeat ISIS and defend the homeland!” This is a direct call to the military and conservatives made uneasy by Trump’s divisive neo-fascism. It’s so deeply Republican in its tone and tenor. And yet it is deployed in defense of a Democratic woman. So far tonight: faith, patriotism and the Constitution. Yes, these are the Reagan Democrats.

9:24 p.m. A mighty blast of military testosterone from the podium. And a righteous call to defend this country and its values from a fascist madman. No wonder the Bernie freaks are losing it.

9:23 p.m. The key phrases:

9:19 p.m. This I can clearly say: that last speech was the best of the last two weeks, and the most necessary. When that father brought out his own copy of the Constitution and waved it at Donald Trump, it was the fulcrum of this election. This is what is at stake – the core values of this country under threat from a man who has no understanding of the Constitution he would swear to uphold.

9:13 p.m. Okay, this is jaw-droppingly powerful: the dignified father, Khizr Khan, of a fallen Muslim soldier, refuting the rancid divisiveness of Trump by his very composure and gravity.

9:09 p.m. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just cited Jefferson against Trump on religious freedom. How much more God and the Founding Fathers can we take at the DNC?

It’s also a real master-stroke – moving and right – to focus on a fallen Muslim US service-member. How would he feel if Trump were his commander-in-chief?

9:08 p.m. Yep:

9:04 p.m. A reader writes:

Voters are so complicated. Just visited my nearly 90-dad, who a) noted “there sure are a lot of black people there” while enduring night 1 of the DNC. “That’s what America looks like now, Dad,” I said, but b) as an incredibly loyal worker his whole life (we all remember his one sick day) is totally po’d about income inequality. He said he would vote for Bernie against Trump, but not Hillary. That’s a hard but important guy to reach, and he has a lot of company: old people who always vote but have been totally sold on the prop that Hillary is Evil.

Flying back from my dad’s, I felt afraid of the other people in the airport as Trump was playing on CNN. I looked furtively around to see who looked approving, and sought succor from the liberal-looking lady next to me. I’m afraid. I feel like I’m in a dystopian Danish drama. I’m afraid to go our night out ice cream party down the block next week.

Trump’s poison is already trickling down.

8:58 p.m. “Jesus – a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew.” A preacher takes a stand against the abuse of Christianity, when it is used to defend callousness toward the immigrant, hatred of the religious minority, and the brazen abuse of power. But then he segues into a left-Christianism.

8:55 p.m. A video that does a mashup of Trump’s bullying moments and segues to Clinton consoling a young woman about bullying. I think the Clinton campaign should run as many mashups of Trump’s outbursts as they can. In the end, Americans surely will not elect an unhinged bully, will they? Expose him. Relentlessly.

8:51 p.m. A reader writes:

Andrew don’t feel bad, even diehard Hillary fans can be excused if our attention wanders a little during the big speech – speechifying not being her strong suit. But governing is her strong suit, and that’s what matters! That and being grounded in reality, who knew?

Welcome aboard, grab a snack and drink and just enjoy the moment on behalf of all of us “women of a certain age.”

8:49 p.m. These human beings are so not-politicians, testifying on behalf of so many also not-politicians who protect us every day. And how much more constructive and positive than shouting “Blue Lives Matter” as opposed to “Black Lives Matter.”

8:46 p.m. I’m extremely glad that they have created this segment featuring the family members – some African-American – of fallen police officers. It’s a vital and complementary point to the need to ensure some cops do not mistreat men of color. And it’s intensely moving at times.

8:43 p.m. A reader writes:

I think they need to be more direct and concise: deporting immigrants won’t bring back construction jobs, but these particular programs will.

Well, some have directed viewers to online resources for specific plans. But I take the point. No one has forcefully explained how Trump’s proposals will not help the people he says he wants to help. Trade wars kill jobs. A mass deportation program will cause civil unrest and hammer economic growth. Massive tax cuts for the rich will do nothing but explode the debt. Every alleged solution he proposes is a fallacy.

8:41 p.m. This convention is giving a whole new meaning to the words “Reagan Democrats.”

8:39 p.m. And now a young Republican woman. Today, by the way, this is what Trump said about Michael Bloomberg’s speech last night:

“I was gonna hit one guy in particular, a very little guy. I was gonna hit this guy so hard his head would spin and he wouldn’t know what the hell happened.”

The same thuggish thrill at violence that we have come to expect. We are thinking of giving this man the nuclear codes?

8:35 p.m. The first Republican for Clinton – a former Reagan speech-writer, Doug Elmets. He’s now pitching Reagan against Trump. “This year’s Republican platform is the most extreme I have ever seen … That is why, this year, I will vote Democrat for the first time.” I’m with him.

A simple, clear, punchy Republican disavowal of Trump. Come in, suburbanite GOPers, the water’s fine out here at the DNC – for this election cycle at least.

8:32 p.m. “Donald Trump, you’re so vain, you probably think this speech is about you.” But it is about Trump – and a celebration of the innovation and reinvention of American manufacturing.

8:28 p.m. Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm is now addressing unfair trade, globalization and the car industry. She’s aiming directly at Trump’s arguments about those left behind by the new global, automated, hi-tech economy. And she’s on fire.

8:25 p.m. Uh-oh:

8:24 p.m. A reader writes:

I know blogging almost killed you, but if Trump gets elected will you at least promise to come back? We’ll all likely be dead or in re-education camps within a few months anyway, so don’t you owe us a few more Pet Shop Boys videos while we wait?

What have I? What have I? What have I done to deserve this?

8:23 p.m. And now a dentist, aka the governor of Pennsylvania.

8:19 p.m. Tonight appears to be an attempt to air and address the pressing concerns of working Americans – those for whom the global economy is not working as it should. I like the chubby bow-tied dude working at a pizza joint, highlighting a pay differential between men and women.

8:17 p.m. A fierce black woman from Detroit is now followed by a preppy, young dude in a blazer. I recognize this America more than I did all those creepy, dyed-hair casino moguls last week.

8:11 p.m. A good sign:

8:00 p.m. I’ll be perfectly honest with you: tonight is not going to be easy for me. My usual response to Hillary Clinton speaking on television is to grab the remote. It’s a reflex. The last time I actually listened to a full speech was when she gave up in 2008.

I know my civic duty in this election: to protect the U.S. from a madman. So don’t give me grief if I find it hard at times to sit through this evening. But here’s what I’m looking for, as someone who can’t stand Clinton but is prepared to vote for her. Can she break through to people like me who tend not to believe a word she says? Can she admit her mistakes, concede her limitations, own her flaws? Can she be sufficiently honest about herself to break down the enormous skepticism that will greet her speech?

In other words, I want to see her real face behind the usual guarded mask. I want to see the person all her friends tell me she is. If she is to be president, she has to start to rebuild trust with skeptics, to persuade us she can unify the country, rather than further polarize it. That’s her immense task tonight. She has to persuade me I can trust her. I don’t right now. But I’m open.

She also has to do something “backward and in heels.” She has to establish her authority as a potential president – as a woman. This has never been done before, and I sure hope it happens again many, many times. But she has to be the first. And there is no blueprint. In that sense, she deserves the benefit of every doubt tonight, and I’ll do my best to give that to her.

Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the DNC, Night 4