PHILADELPHIA — As anyone who has caught the DNC on television knows, this, even more than the RNC in Cleveland, has already been one unconventional nominating convention, with some boos for the nominee and a couple of “Knock it off!” remonstrations from the podium.
Some of the early speeches soared , like Michelle Obama’s when she said, “Don’t let anyone tell you this country isn’t great.” (And thanks, Mrs. O, for inspiring my 20-year-old daughter to notice that you refrained from being “mean about Melania” Trump’s speech that borrowed from your own, when that would have been so easy but so unnecessary: “I’m going to remember,” my daughter said, ‘When they go low, we go high .'”)
Other addresses on Night One were so larded with high-cholesterol hyperbole that they had the opposite of the desired effect on me. (No, Hillary Clinton has not been fighting all her life for every issue in the platform.)
It was three of the less remarked-upon, non-prime-time speakers, though, who highlighted some of the themes that I think will be crucial to a Hillary Clinton victory in November.
Among them, direct from San Antonio, Texas, where she heads the local chapter of Gold Star Wives, was Cheryl Lankford , a war widow who said she was bilked by Trump University out of $35,000 of the insurance money the Army gave her after her husband was killed in Baghdad in 2007.
She was embarrassed to stand up there on the stage and admit she got taken, she said, in what to me was the single most effective moment of the night in terms of its potential to sway voters. But she’s willing to be embarrassed, she said, because she doesn’t want the country to fall for empty promises the same way she did.
After her husband, Jonathan M. Lankford, a command sergeant major in the Army, died, she said, she put a lot of thought into how to spend the insurance money in a way that would put her back on her feet and make her husband proud of her. So in 2009, she signed up for Trump U classes hoping to learn some of the tips that had made Donald Trump so successful in business, but almost immediately realized that the course would do no such thing.
“They broke their promises … stopped taking my calls … the whole thing was a lie. … Donald Trump made big promises about Trump University. And I was fooled into believing him. Now he’s making big promises about America. Please don’t make the same mistake.”
Another potential ka-boom theme for the fall was laid out by home state Sen. Bob Casey , who pointed out just where the products manufactured by the candidate who talks so much about bringing jobs back to America are actually produced.
“Donald Trump says he stands for workers and that he’ll put America first,” Casey said, “but that’s not how he conducted himself in business. Where are his “tremendous” Trump products made? Dress shirts? Bangladesh. Furniture? Turkey. Picture frames? India. Wine glasses? Slovenia. Neck ties? China. Why would Donald Trump make his products in every corner of the globe but not in Altoona, Erie or here in Philadelphia?”
Answering his own question, Casey continued, “Well, this is what he said: ‘Outsourcing is not always a terrible thing. Wages in America are too high.’ And then he complained about companies moving jobs overseas because, ‘We don’t make things anymore.’ Really?”
Another gut-punch of a speech came from disability rights activist Anastasia Somoza , who has cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia and uses a wheelchair. She has interned for Hillary Clinton, and worked on her Senate campaign, and she quite effectively answered Trump’s jaw-droppingly cruel imitation of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski , who has arthrogryposis, which limits the functioning of his joints.
“Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy,” Mr. Trump said last November, imitating Kovaleski in a way that Sister Mary Edna warned us against in the first grade, with the story of a boy who made fun of a disabled classmate but wasn’t laughing it up at all after God froze him in that position. Trump’s Kovaleski impersonation, which he has said was no such thing, was shown in the hall, along with shocked commentary from Fox News hosts, before Somoza spoke.
“I fear the day we elect a president who defines being an American in the narrowest possible of terms, who shouts, bullies and profits off of the vulnerable Americans,” Somoza told the crowd. In mocking the reporter, she said, “Donald Trump has shown us who he really he is. I honestly feel bad for anyone with that much hate in their heart.”