DNC, Night One from a Communications/PoliSci Major’s Perspective

So, I watched 3 hours of the DNC night 1 and have a few thoughts–trying to limit myself to rhetorical analysis. The theme was about the family…but that was not highlighted in anything I heard–though all but Senator Sanders’ speech certainly fit the theme.

Best Speech in both delivery and content: FLOTUS, by a mile. First, it appeared to be the most genuine. With one or two sentences excepted, it did not sound like a stump speech. It did not set too many rhetorical goals and kept to them, with a good balance of personal conviction and appeals to common values. Ultimately, I believe she was very effective in contrasting the demeanor and leadership styles of the nominees from the perspective of a concerned parent…but I can’t help but remember that this has been an argument made throughout the GOP primary season that did not change voters’ minds…at all.

Most important speech: without question, Senator Sanders. It was clear from the beginning he was setting three goals for himself: continue his self-styled “revolution,” highlight for naysayers all of the elements of that revolution that are in the DEM platform, and highlight how essential he believed it was that Clinton, and not Trump, be elected. Sanders has almost trademarked the “I’m plainspoken, but wonky” style that actually is reminiscent of early Bill Clinton in that, when he got to policy, he was wonky and overlong. There were a few moments when the litany of platform victories came off as a “see what I got you in the platform” speech directed at his disgruntled followers—which is exactly what it was. From my perspective it was a bit too on the nose in the “platform” section, but more effective with the other two goals.

One to watch for: Senator Booker, who, along with FLOTUS had the best “lines” of the evening, though it was overlong and he muted the value of some of his best lines by not having a coherent arc from beginning to end. Still, there were moments when the speech sounded “important” as in “these words will be remembered.” The cynicism line and the “We Will Rise” repeated line were very effective, but again, undone by being only a piece of the speech and not a unifying theme. The use of the Declaration of Independence as a framing device was not as impactful as it could have been being relegated largely to only the beginning and end. He also needs to learn the difference between intensity and volume, though everyone gets a free pass on that tonight because of their fear of the chants of the counter protestors.

Same song, 20th verse: Senator Warren. Let’s face it; she is consistently the best at pushing the buttons of the GOP nominee, and one can almost hear a certain candidate’s twitter account blowing up tonight. Still, there wasn’t anything new there. I do think that by the time she talked about the bogus Trump U, the point had been made 4 times already…and I wanted to ask “What other arrows do you have in your rhetorical quiver?” Senator Franken gets the runner up prize for using humor (with mixed results) to accomplish the same thing.

Bravest speakers: the three citizen speakers, though I thought the Trump U victim ad plus her (very articulate) appearance were a bit of overkill. The young woman who was a disabilities advocate was admirably brief and kept it personal as did the immigration reform families.

The ‘Oh No She Didn’t’ Award: Sarah Silverman, a devoted supporter of Senator Sanders throughout the campaign, telling “Bernie or Bust” folks that they were being “ridiculous” in off the cuff (and clearly off script) remarks while Paul Simon’s band set up.

Author: RevKirby

Middle-aged progressive ex-lawyer/pastor in Evanston with keen interest in justice, law, theology, show tunes, history and trivia.

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