Rhetorical Recap: Parental love versus plundered emails

First Night of the Democratic National Convention, July 25 2016

The Democrats struggled toward harmony yesterday. A couple of strong speeches and two Paul Simon songs may have helped, but patching a party split down the middle is hard work.  And a new threat, the likelihood that the Russians have emails from Clinton’s server ready to spring upon the public at a vulnerable time for the campaign, has been identified but not addressed.

Bernie Sanders spoke twice, to his supporters in the afternoon and to the house divided at the close of convention business.  He was met with boos on the first occasion, prompting him to text his peeps afterward asking them to refrain from protesting on the second.  Enough spurned his request to be heard throughout the night’s proceedings.  Sarah Silverman chided them for being ridiculous.  An angry, wonky, unfortunately slotted Elizabeth Warren powered past their interruptions. In the end the cheers and tears that greeted Sanders seemed to extinguish the dissent. His speech was drained of bitterness, but his endorsement was impersonal, based on an “objective” assessment of the choice in an election that he said is not about individuals.

It’s hard to gauge how effective the conversion efforts went yesterday, but a look at Twitter retweets provides a few overnight clues.  Retweets signify support for a message. As of 9 a.m. eastern time today, a Trump dig at Bernie had garnered 17K retweets in ten hours, about the same as two earlier tweets inviting Sanders supporters to join a campaign against the rigged system.  However, the instant topper “Never Tweet” to the Trump dig put out by Sanders had amassed 92K retweets in the same ten hours. So that’s a good sign for Democrats: among the Bernie social media network, active animus for Trump far exceeded Trump supporters’ affirmation of his invitations to defect. 

The speech of the night, and perhaps longer, came from Michelle Obama. Her oration took inspiration from “Role Models,” a highly praised Clinton campaign video, and it echoed the printed signs that read “love trumps hate.”  She adopted the perspective of a mother of children watching Trump.  Protecting children is Clinton’s lifelong cause, of course.

The FIrst Lady explained how she and her husband “try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight, how we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith… we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country.

“How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

Well, she coulda dropped the mic right there.  But Obama brought it home politically.

OBAMA: “And make no mistake about it, this November when we go to the polls that is what we’re deciding, not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, in this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives.

“And I am here tonight because in this election there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is our friend Hillary Clinton.”

“Trust” is the verb that Clinton needs above all others, of course. It’s a perfect framing.

Many lines in Obama’s speech were ready-made for Twitter, including “the issues a president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.”  She executed a breathtaking transition into an optimistic close by describing how she wakes up in a house built by slaves to see her daughters playing on its lawn.

Like Al Franken and others, she ended with an ask for canvassing, which I did not hear in Cleveland.

The day she leaves the White House Michelle Obama can do whatever she wants in American society.  Her speechwriting team won’t do badly, either.  Well deserved.


Attentiveness to field work is one advantage the Democrats have. That Sanders did not take the distancing paths of Cruz or Kasich, another.  (According to Pew, 90% of Sanders supporters have already committed to voting for Clinton; the remaining 10% seemed to have journeyed to Philadelphia this week.)  Bigger star surrogates, a third.

But there is now a new twist on the enduring threat to Clinton: her email server.  The 20,000 DNC emails may yield dollops of more news, but that is a dying story with the chair having taken the fall.  The thematic connection remains potent, however, and the possibility of a September, October or, as with W’s DUI news drop in 2000, a November surprise. Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook started the inoculation by calling attention to the Russian connection, but that’s where his job stops.  It’s up to the candidate to deliver a personal apology and a programmatic promise of how her administration will handle cyberthreats. 

The power of a parent is substantial, sometimes mighty.  But it would seem of limited use protecting against leaked emails of state.

Leave a Reply

Download Whitepaper

Thank you for your interest. Please enter your email address to view the report.