Commentary: On Night 2 of the DNC, Democrats urge Americans to tell Trump, ‘You’re fired!’
The second night of the Democratic National Convention took a favorite catchphrase of reality TV star Donald Trump and turned it against President Trump.
“You have to decide whether to renew his contract or hire someone else,” said former President (and Republican nemesis) Bill Clinton. “If you want a president who defines the job as spending hours a day watching TV and zapping people on social media, he’s your man.”
Stacey Abrams, who was among 17 rising stars of the Democratic Party who delivered a joint keynote address, also made it clear that 45 needed to be voted off POTUS island. Trump is largely to blame for a public health catastrophe, economic collapse and unprecedented racial reckoning, she said, endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden to replace him: “[The] choice is clear. A steady, experienced public servant who can lead us out of crisis just like he’s done before, or a man who only knows how to deny and distract. A leader who cares about our families, or a president who only cares about himself.”
The DNC’s second night, on Tuesday, featured speeches by Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
Forget gentle election-year slogans of old like “Working for Change” or “Restore Our Future.” Trump Sucks and He’s Ruining Everything! was the theme of the two-hour, COVID-era virtual production, dedicated to elevating Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, by weaponizing the litany of mistakes made by Trump.
Needless to say, the party had plenty of ammo in its arsenal and employed big guns to launch the televised attack.
The heavy artillery included Clinton, the Carters and members of the Kennedy clan, all of whom were rolled out early on in the “convention.” Lesser-known figures from all levels of government joined the Down-with-45 effort in recorded and live messages shot on their home turf, shilling for Biden against the backdrop of desert cacti and bashing Trump from a picturesque California beach.
These faces from all over the nation, many of whom were regular folks voicing their concerns and opinions, continued a theme from Night 1 of the DNC. There’s power in the presence of regular folks, when we can hear them speak directly about their concerns versus listening to a politician on the convention stage reiterate what he’s heard on the campaign trail from “hard-working Americans.” Corny as it sounds, much of what was said on national television by those usually relegated to the status of “middle-aged Black woman,” “older white man” and “young Latino” in party focus groups and polling demographics rang true.
It wasn’t all about the testimonials or take-downs, however. Official business needed to be tended to in the form of a delegate roll call vote to officially claim Biden as the Democratic choice on the November ballot.
The lengthy process was yet another test of how to successfully translate dry Washington procedure into a palatable and even entertaining live event. The winning answer was to pair the vote with videotaped or live segments from each state and territory, where figures representing the regions read the delegate count but also commented on politics of the kitchen-table variety. Puerto Rico Sen. Carmelo Ríos Santiago stood by a gleaming blue bay as he announced, in Spanish, the votes for Biden and his primary rival, Bernie Sanders, then thanked the former for always supporting the island. Joseph McNamara, of “the calamari comeback state of Rhode Island,” as he called it, did the same while standing next to a plate of the fried appetizer.
Khizr Khan, father of slain Gold Star soldier Humayun Khan, spoke for Virginia. Khan and his wife, Ghazala, who are Muslim, were demeaned by Trump after speaking at the 2016 DNC. It was an ugly chapter, even in Trump’s Muslim-bashing legacy, so Khan’s participation Tuesday — after a brief cameo Monday night — was clearly meant to send a message: Intolerance will not be tolerated. “Three years ago my beloved city, Charlottesville, [Va.], was attacked by white supremacists and a young woman was killed,” he said. “We were attacked again when Donald Trump praised those racists, turning his back on a community that just wanted peace. That was the day Joe Biden decided to join this battle for the soul of America. Over time Ghazala and I have come to know his soul. He’s a decent, passionate man who will bring this nation together.”
The first night of the Democratic National Convention read as a telethon for a country in crisis. It was more true to the moment than balloons and confetti.
Kool & the Gang’s “Celebrate” was cued up to celebrate Biden’s nomination, and the cameras cut to his family rejoicing together. The intimate scene didn’t conjure the ecstasy of a packed convention center, but there were balloons and videos of exuberant supporters jumping up and down in their living rooms. Biden looked out of sorts, perhaps uncomfortable with the virtual nature of it all, but his true test will come on Thursday, when he closes the DNC by accepting the nomination that Tuesday night’s festivities confirmed.
Following Monday’s appearance by Eva Longoria, “black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross hosted Tuesday night’s edition of the DNC Variety Hour, which also featured former Second Lady Jill Biden and a finale performance from singer-songwriter John Legend. They bookended an evening filled with calls to fire the guy who rose to reality TV stardom sacking poor souls on “The Apprentice” — only after demeaning them, of course — and he carried that skill set to the White House.
On Tuesday night, television, and the Democrats, bit back.
“When this president goes overseas, it’s not a goodwill mission, it’s a blooper reel,” said former senator and Secretary of State John F. Kerry. “He breaks up with our allies and writes love letters to dictators. America deserves a president who is looked up to, not laughed at.”
From the Emmys to the Oscars.
Get our revamped Envelope newsletter, sent twice a week, for exclusive awards season coverage, behind-the-scenes insights and columnist Glenn Whipp’s commentary.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.