• 20 August, 2020 9:29 pm


I focus on our political coverage so, for me, this week has been all Democratic National Convention, all the time.

Kathmandu August 20: 

I focus on our political coverage so, for me, this week has been all Democratic National Convention, all the time.

On Night 2, Democrats had their first big breakout star of the all-virtual party convention: the “calamari comeback state of Rhode Island.” People, well, ate it up. The moment was also one answer, in the negative, to a question that has been asked a lot this week: Do we really even need party conventions? Before our modern primary system (essentially an innovation of the 1970s), real things happened at conventions; now they are largely ceremonial events — or, less generously, “infomercials,” as two writers in our daily commentary on the convention put it. Yet many of our writers argued that the conventions can be valuable for the parties and for citizens engaged in the political process. The roll-call vote was a good example, provoking stirring, delighted commentary. Jamelle Bouie wrote, “I found it genuinely moving to see Americans of all colors and backgrounds speak to that pride and to their faith in this country.”

It “looked outward at America,” Michelle Cottle wrote, while Héctor Tobar admired the nation’s “great landscapes.” The activities and speeches have also articulated what it means to be a Democrat — particularly during the Trump years. Frank Bruni called Michelle Obama’s speech “salvation.” She distilled, for him, what’s wrong with President Trump: “He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us.” The convention has also highlighted the contributions of ordinary people and activists.

To beat Trump, Chuck Rocha wrote this week, Democrats will need to galvanize a diverse coalition — in particular, he stressed Latinos and pointed out a “culture of activism” in Arizona and beyond. Adam Jentleson, a deputy chief of staff for former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, warned Democrats to be ready for challenges beyond Election Day. Even with a Joe Biden victory, he wrote, the party will “still be confronted with a radical Republican Party.” So perhaps there is value in political conventions, even virtual ones. The “infomercial” may be “over-produced, stilted and ought to have been boring,” as Will Wilkinson put it, “but it wasn’t. It was soothing, hopeful and sentimental in a good way.” Calamari, anyone?

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