At its core, discrimination is the result of fear. Those who think Americans scare easily enough to abandon our country’s ideals in exchange for a false sense of security underestimate our resolve.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabar at the 2016 Democratic Convention
This week everybody was talking about the Democratic Convention
Nate Silver summarized it pretty well:
Each day of the Democratic National Convention had an overarching strategic goal. Monday was about uniting the party. Tuesday was about telling Hillary Clinton’s life story (and, by extension, improving her dismal favorability ratings). Wednesday was about articulating forceful contrasts for swing voters and reminding them of the consequences of a potential President Trump. Thursday, with a lot of flag-waving and representation from the military, along with Clinton’s own remarks, was about establishing her credentials as commander in chief.
Headliners. Each day's headliners came through with amazing speeches, which you should watch if you haven't already. Monday: In what some have called "a speech for the ages", Michelle Obama subtly talked about the First Family as role models for children, reminded us of the class and dignity with which the Obamas have carried that responsibility, and left us imagining Donald Trump in that role. She also began what became a drumbeat in later speeches: defining a uniquely Democratic message of patriotism and optimism -- not that America has always been right, but that we constantly get better.
Tuesday's highlight was Bill Clinton playing a new role: the spouse who humanizes the candidate. This was an important moment in the convention. One comment I frequently see from Bernie-or-bust posters on Facebook is that no one is actually for Clinton, but we're just supposed to vote against Trump. Bill's 45-year love story (beginning with "In the spring of 1971, I met a girl.") set her in a context that many voters (especially younger ones) have probably never seen. Yes, there are a large number of people who have loved and admired Hillary Clinton for many years.
Wednesday was Joe Biden and Tim Kaine and President Obama. As Nate Silver said, this was the night for convincing swing voters, and they did it by claiming a lot of the up-with-America themes that usually belong to Republicans, but which Trump's convention abandoned. President Obama:
Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s precisely this contest of idea that pushes our country forward. But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican -- and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems -- just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate.
And that is not the America I know. The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous.
Thursday was Clinton herself, whose major challenge was not to be overshadowed by all the excellent oratory that had come before. She didn't attempt to compete with President Obama in terms of vision and inspiration, but presented herself as a steady hand with a lifelong record of public service and a progressive agenda. She left a very deft trap for Trump, which he proved unable to avoid blundering into:
He loses his cool at the slightest provocation – when he’s gotten a tough question from a reporter, when he’s challenged in a debate, when he sees a protestor at a rally. Imagine, if you dare imagine, imagine him 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.
Surprises. Wednesday also had an unusual endorsement from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had mulled his own third-party presidential run. Bloomberg is also the kind of business success Trump only pretends to be.
Throughout his career, Trump has left behind a well-documented record of bankruptcies, thousands of lawsuits, angry shareholders and contractors who feel cheated, and disillusioned customers who feel ripped off. Trump says he wants to run the nation like he's run his business. God help us. I'm a New Yorker, and New Yorkers know a con when we see one!
But the big surprise came Thursday, with the speech by Khizr Khan (accompanied by his wife Ghazala), about his son Captain Humayun Khan, who died saving his soldiers in Iraq in 2004.
If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.
Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words "liberty" and "equal protection of law."
Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.
You have sacrificed nothing and no one.
As Hillary had predicted, Trump couldn't just let that go. He couldn't say something like "While I disagree with much of what Khizr Khan had to say about me, I respect his family's sacrifice." Instead, he asked why Ghazala didn't say anything, invoking another stereotype of Muslims:
She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.
And he defended his own "sacrifices".
I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've had tremendous success. I think I've done a lot.
Ghazala Khan replied in The Washington Post:
When Donald Trump is talking about Islam, he is ignorant. If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.
Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.
Like so many of the damaging spats Trump gets into, this could have been over in a day. Fox News didn't even show the original speech, so many conservatives would never have noticed it. Instead, it's a multi-day story and could turn into one of the defining moments of the campaign.
Now that even conservatives are saying that the Democrats put on a much better convention, Donald Trump is ducking responsibility for the Republican Convention: "I didn’t produce our show — I just showed up for the final speech on Thursday." Though Trump's speech did get slightly more viewers than Hillary's -- 34.9 million compared to 33.7 -- overall the four-day Democratic Convention had a 16-million viewer lead in the ratings.
I guess viewers would rather hear from Meryl Streep and Katy Perry than Scott Baio and Willie Robertson, and would rather watch Kareem Abdul-Jabar than wonder why Tim Tebow decided not to come. In a rather pointed reference to the Melania plagiarism story, Trevor Noah observed that Republicans “don’t have a Michelle Obama. They just have a Michelle Obama tribute act."
and its result
Polls that came out last week showed Trump getting a bounce from his convention and pulling into the lead. There are still a number of polls to hear from, but the early ones indicate that the Democratic Convention has undone that bounce and then some.
Since Trump's own blunders are turning the post-convention news cycle against him, Clinton's convention bounce may solidify into a lasting advantage.
and the Trump/Putin connection
which I discuss in the other featured post.
but you should notice the victories against voter suppression
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals annihilated North Carolina's voter-suppression law:
Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist.
... Using race as a proxy for party may be an effective way to win an election. But intentionally targeting a particular race’s access to the franchise because its members vote for a particular party, in a predictable manner, constitutes discriminatory purpose. This is so even absent any evidence of race-based hatred and despite the obvious political dynamics. A state legislature acting on such a motivation engages in intentional racial discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.
ThinkProgress called this opinion "a beat-down" and chose to illustrate it with a GIF of Hulk pounding Loki into the pavement in the first Avengers movie.
In a separate case, a federal judge struck down a string of voter-suppression provisions of Wisconsin law, writing:
The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities.
and you might also be interested in
The legal process against the yahoos who took over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge for more than a month last winter is continuing to churn. Ryan Bundy is defending himself in court, which must be entertaining for the press, if frustrating for the judge. Ryan is claiming to be a sovereign citizen who is not subject to federal law, and is making a number of absurd motions that follow from that assumption. Meanwhile, the government is asserting that the armed occupation is not a legitimate assertion of First and Second Amendment rights: "Taking a gun into a government office is not First Amendment protected activity."
The Obama Presidential Library is going to be on the Chicago lakefront, about a mile from where I lived when I was a student at the University of Chicago.
and let's close with somebody who has far too much time
If you're feeling withdrawal during the Game of Thrones off-season, and you have hopelessly nerdy tendencies anyway, I've got a guy to introduce you to. Just as the Baker Street Irregulars take Sherlock Holmes way too seriously, Lyman Stone gives that kind of attention to Westeros. In particular, how big is it? In what ways do the demographic details in the novels fail basic rules of world-building? And how could you make it as realistic as any dragon-inhabited medieval world threatened by the undead could possibly be?