A Very Special Democratic National Convention

I watched much of the interminable DNC coverage tonight, waiting for Jerry Lewis and Sammy Davis, Jr. to show up, and I’m sorry, but I demand better. Business as usual isn’t going to rid us of that evil man in the White House. This is the most important election of our lives. Phoning it in with condescending montages and feel-good bullshit isn’t going to cut it.

Aside from the passionate pizzazz from Bernie, who decried authoritarianism against the incongruous backdrop of chopped wood, and Michelle Obama’s mild concession that Trump was ill-suited to the Presidency (which is a bit like saying that breathing in carbon monoxide is bad for you: sure, it’s something you need to say, but it’s hardly the foundation for the brio one sees in, oh say, the good King rallying the troops in Henry V), this was a largely comatose affair that could have played on any UHF station twenty years ago, complete with a cameo from Tom Vu telling you to come to his seminar. And even if my ridiculous transposition were to actually transpire, I’m pretty sure Vu would have been the liveliest and most memorable figure.

Fake smiles propped themselves up, tendering platitudes and quips that could have been cribbed from a cornball Hallmark card. Kloubuchar’s sham dentition, in particular, was truly a phony crocodile look for the ages. I’ve seen that self-serving look espoused by far too many cutthroat types in corporate boardrooms. But few of these speakers had any plans and they never espoused anything close to real empathy over the many people suffering throughout the nation right now. Even an In Memoriam montage for the 170,000 Americans killed by COVID played at a remarkably brief clip, as if some twitchy kid hopped up on Mountain Dew in the control room was randomly determining the trajectory of the broadcast. John Kasich looked as if he was between holes on a golf course and looked eager to return to the game. You resented him for being there. Eva Longoria looked better prepared to host some VH1 special rather than one of the major political congregations of the year.

Where was the true compassion for the millions of Americans who are unemployed or who face eviction right now? Where was, in short, the real emotional conviction? We’re living in a hellscape. Let’s not forget that. Read the national temperature and it’s pretty clear that this isn’t the kind of environment that you organize a harmless little potluck over. We are in a place that demands mobilization and action and passion and conviction. Sure, it’s nice to know that Biden talks to regular people while riding Amtrak. But it’s a sign of how far our standards have plummeted that this tepid corporate nonsense, with its overwrought tunes and those relentless bullet points of info reminding what each speaker had done, has apparently caused so many to mist up or to express “how proud” they are to be a Democrat. It turns out that being a risk-averse neoliberal is a bit like being a member of Rotary International. You pat people on the back for saying nothing special and then you use your card to get the 10% discount at Denny’s.

Frankly, I was mostly appalled and deeply uninspired. Only Bernie’s promised appearance tonight kept me watching. You can’t act as if the millions of people from many backgrounds who mobilized behind Bernie never existed. Hell, you can’t pretend that real working people and real unemployed people who are seeing their life savings and mental health nosedive don’t exist. The Democrats are making the same damn mistake they always have. They act like the party of the middle-class and they never come across as the party of the people. And if they’re not careful during the next three nights, Trump is going to swoop in just as he did in 2016 and speak to these very real people in ways they want to hear. And these people, desperate for anything, will buy it. And we’re going to be in a sizable cesspool from which we will probably never be able to escape. The hell of it is that mainstream Democrats never want to hear this. But they’re the ones who really need to. Because they’re the ones who put their fingers in their ears and say “Ka Ma La I can’t hear you.”

I’m starting to fear we’re going to lose this. And we really can’t. If Trump is re-elected, it’s going to permanently break our country. I’d put my own passion into trying to get people to vote for the greater good. But the problem here is that the so-called greater good gives me nothing to be passionate about. And I’m not someone who is ever going to offer fake passion. It’s the job of the Biden campaign to close the deal. And the present presentation format simply isn’t going to cut it.

© 2020, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.

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