A Few Thoughts on a Novel Convention

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August 20, 2020 11:39 p.m.

This was a very powerful speech from Joe Biden, better than I expected. I don’t think of Biden is a great public speaker. That’s not really necessary for the job. But this was very powerful. It matched powerfully with the historical moment. I was struck listening to Biden’s speech that it made Trump seem like such a vacant, meaningless man. Which is to say it accurately captured him … but it did so largely as an absence.

Trump was a central focus of Biden’s speech and yet he seemed like such a thin presence, almost not even there. This in itself is something because Trump’s chaotic, predatory presence has been such a dominating one in our public life – echoing in our heads – through his presidency.

This speech was also another example that we are better for a virtual convention. Applause lines and crowd interaction would have diminished this speech. It was highly direct, close-up. Though it was obviously a tightly-tailored and considered speech, this made for something more intimate and direct. Seeing crowd shots and cheer lines and all that clutter of conventioneering only would have reduced the moment.

This matched with the whole program. As with the speech, the 2020 Democratic convention was highly produced. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there was a DIY aesthetic to the whole effort – of necessity and real – that feels new, experimental, somehow hopeful itself notwithstanding this bleak pass we stand in in our national story.

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