Here are my thoughts on the eve of the (virtual) 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Ten bits of advice for speakers:
1. IDEAS: Make the convention a broad showcase for fresh ideas and celebration of America’s renewed hope. Stress positivity over negativity.
2. INCLUSION: Stress that the Democratic Party is (or should be) the big tent of inclusion, where Americans of virtually all beliefs are welcome and can freely express themselves. Hit on the fact that Republicans have litmus tests. Hammer home the idea that Democrats, while often disorganized and in disagreement, believe in compromise and working together as one. Yes, we are the party of progressives. But we also welcome moderates and even conservatives who are disillusioned by the horrors of the current regime.
3. THE FUTURE: Minimize and marginalize Donald Trump. He doesn’t deserve to be the focal point. While it’s impossible to ignore Trump as a factor, look forward, not backward. This convention is not about the past. It’s about the future.
4. MAKE THIS ABOUT THE WORKING CLASS: Talk straight to the working class. Speak to the desperation of struggling families sick and tired of fearing for their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, despite the so-called boom on Wall Street. Make this election about Main Street and the cul de sac and the apartment complex that’s raising the rent again. People are scared. Half the country is close to being bankrupt. Talk to THEM.
5. SCALE BACK DIVISIVENESS AND REPETITION #1: Black Lives Matter is an important cause, worth fighting for. But it’s not the only cause worth fighting for. Let’s keep this issue in perspective. Democrats will be squandering an opportunity if BLM becomes the centerpiece of the message. Political Fact 101: Pragmatism works. Rigid ideological lectures turn off (most) voters, especially undecideds. [A comment sure to upset some people: Yes, Kamala Harris is the first woman of color ever on a national presidential ticket. That’s awesome! But we don’t need 45 speakers to tell us this in every speech. Let’s celebrate this historic occasion. Let’s not play the same recording over and over again at the expense of other vital issues.
6. SCALE BACK DIVISIVENESS AND REPETITION #2: LGBTQ issues are an important cause, worth fighting for. But it’s not the only cause worth fighting for. Let’s keep this issue in perspective. Democrats will be squandering an opportunity if LGBTQ becomes another centerpiece of the message. Political Fact 101: Pragmatism works. Rigid ideological lectures turn off (most) voters, especially undecideds. Yes, I intentionally copied the text from #5. The point is — winning swing states isn’t going to come down to making a stand on transgender bathrooms. Let’s get real, people.
7. IT’S HOTTER THAN HELL, AND THERE’S A REASON: August 2020 is turning out to perhaps be the hottest month ever recorded. Let’s spend more time on the issue of Man-Made Climate Change, which is very scary and very real. Every DNC speaker should at least mention this, as it’s the most important long-term issue we face collectively, as a nation and as a planet.
8. OPPORTUNITY: Make this election about OPPORTUNITY. Which party’s candidates provide the majority of Americans the greatest opportunity for safety, prosperity, and happiness? Trump has demolished each of these aspirations. Tell us what we can expect to be built in place of the shambles left by Trump and the Republicans.
9. STRAIGHT TALK: Talk straight and be honest with the American people. Whoever wins in November and which party controls the House and Senate are going to be left with a massive cleanup project that will take several years. There are no easy fixes. This is a time for real leadership, not faux-patriotism and phony flag-waving.
10. “WOW” US: Finally, make the speeches fun. Use humor. Entertain us. Make us laugh in jubilation and cry with joy at the aspiration of what we might be with a better government with good people running it. As a policy wonk, I usually prefer substance over style and details rather than generalization, but I’m not the target demographic. The struggling family in Toldeo, OH is the target. The single mother in a Phila. suburb is the target. The senior citizen in Florida fearful of what will happen to Social Security is the target.. Make it about THEM. This election and this convention, being mostly online and virtual, is very different. So, ADAPT. CHANGE with the times. Use the unusual occasion to our BENEFIT. Make us feel better and smarter and more hopeful after watching the convention. Speaking to the DNC, that’s entirely on YOU.
I’ll be watching, anticipating, and hoping.