After first-day jitters, I thought Democrats had a very good convention. Hillary Clinton's speech may not have been one for the ages, and may have seemed laundry-listy at the end, in the manner of State of the Union addresses by both her husband and Barack Obama, but it was a solid, often inspiring speech.
I was working late and missed most of the rest of the night, but I just caught up with Khizr Khan's speech and I understand why everyone's talking about it. The Muslim father of a dead Iraq veteran asked whether Trump has even read the Constitution (I'm sure he'd say he has, and I'm sure he'd be lying) and whether he's ever visited Arlington National Cemetery (it's with dread that I envision a Trump visit to Arlington -- he'd make it all about himself, in that tacky way of his).
But with regard to Hillary's speech, I had two thoughts. First, I've worried that she's never directly taken on the question of why so many voters don't trust her. That wasn't addressed in the speech or the rest of the convention. I haven't been thinking that she should apologize or beat herself up rhetorically -- I've just been thinking that a good speechwriter (and the Democrats seem to have some very good ones) ought to be able to put that subject front and center and construct a response that addresses voters' doubts while helping her transcend the question by putting in a larger context. Think of something like Barack Obama's 2008 race speech.
But there was nothing like that in this speech -- and maybe that's fair. She tried to transcend the question not by addressing it but by mounting a convention in which four days were spent just telling us that she'd be a terrific president. And that's exactly what Donald Trump did. People don't trust him, yet he never explains, never apologizes, never even acknowledges his divisiveness. If never apologizing is a strength for him, why can't it be a strength for Hillary Clinton?
My second thought was that the convention, and the speech, tried to present Clinton as a lot of things to a lot of people -- a conventional Obama-style Democrat, a candidate who's taken on the platform positions of the Sanders movement, a Democrat who wants the votes of Republicans and will lavish praise on cops as well as Black Lives Matter. Is it calculated? Of course -- but it's also what every centrist pundit has sought for years, a new politics that rejects polarization. It's what voters regularly tell pollsters they're hoping for -- politicians who want to end gridlock. Will members of the press acknowledge that Clinton is trying to be the candidate they say they want?
Obama made this sort of appeal, too, but as a candidate he invoked unity in poetry, whereas Clinton's speech did it by laying out policy positions that are, in some cases, associated with the poles, while targeting a range of voters from Sandersites on the left to suburban GOP voters on the right.
Does it make any sense? I don't know. Is it what a lot of people in the middle say they want? Absolutely. So pundits, if you criticize this aspect of her candidacy, remember: You built it.
As for me, I hope it works in November -- and then I hope progressives fight for what she's promising to the left. That's how it has to work -- vote for her now, because the alternative is unthinkable, and hold her feet to the fire once she's in office. Because you absolutely won't be able to do that ith the unholy coalition of Trump, Ryan, and McConnell.