Overall the DNC was far better produced, with much more star power, than last week’s Scott Baio Festival — at times it felt like the two conventions took place in different universes — but the Democrats’ week certainly had its low points as well.
Here were the best and worst moments of the 2016 DNC.
BEST: America Gets Its First Woman Presidential Nominee
Choke on the history, haters. Hillary Clinton broke a glass ceiling more than two centuries old by becoming the first female nominee for president of a major political party. The moment was celebrated in headlines across the country — though, to their discredit, many newspapers featured front-page pictures of convention speaker Bill Clinton instead.
WORST: The DNC Email Hack
One of the worst moments of the convention took place during the pregame. Documents hacked from DNC servers, allegedly by the Russians, and posted to Wikileaks, revealed that DNC officials had plotted to trip up the Sanders campaign. The DNC is supposed to be neutral among candidates for the nomination. But DNC officials talked openly about raising questions of Sanders’ faith.
“Does he believe in a God,” wrote DNC CFO Brad Marshall in one email chain, adding that Sanders “had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage.” Marshall elaborated: “I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”
The DNC’s CEO, Amy Dacey, replied simply, “AMEN.”
Both officials have since apologized.
While the documents did not prove that the nominating process was rigged, the hack poured salt in the wounds of Sanders supporters long angered by the Clinton favoritism of the party establishment.
BEST: Debbie Wasserman Schultz Is Ousted
For the unloved chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC hack was the last straw. Schultz initially stepped down as the chair of the convention, but quickly found her tenure as DNC chair was done. To its credit, the party called off its bench two upgrade replacements. Important in a party that is increasingly dependent of the votes of African Americans and women, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio stepped in to lead the convention, while Donna Brazile has taken the reins of the DNC.
WORST: The Trump Bounce
Despite the horror show of the GOP convention having been televised to a national audience, Donald Trump surged in the polls after the RNC, registering a lead of five points in a CNN poll and as great as seven points in a tracking poll by the Los Angeles Times. Causing many liberals to lose their lunch, even Nate Silver’s election forecast predicted that an election, held this week, would have yielded a Trump presidency.
BEST: Michelle Obama Brings Down the House
In a speech that left jaws on the floor, the first lady delivered a devastating indictment of Donald Trump without once mentioning his name. The words were art, the delivery pitch-perfect. Even top Republican operatives were in awe of the craft. “As a former speechwriter,” tweeted John Podhoretz, “all I can do is listen to this and say–WHO WROTE THIS? YOU’RE MAKING US PROUD.”
Comedian Michael Ian Black might have put it best: “Michelle just Beyonceed that joint.”
WORST: The Bernie Boo-Birds
In a speech to supporters in Philadelphia on Monday prior to the formal opening of the convention, Bernie Sanders asked that his backers throw their support behind Clinton. But the self-styled political revolutionary found himself unable to lead his revolution; he was booed lustily. The booers continued their antics through much of Day One.
BEST: Sarah Silverman Goes Off-Script
At a moment when the boo-birds threatened to overwhelm the narrative, comedian Sarah Silverman helped pull the convention back from the the brink with a simple ad-libbed beat down: “To the Bernie-or-Bust people, you’re being ridiculous.”
WORST: The Bernie Delegate Walk-Out
Hundreds of dead-ender Sanders delegates, having lost the nominating battle, and perhaps a bit unclear on the fundamental concept, turned their backs on the nominating convention and took to the halls and the streets outside the Wells Fargo Center, chanting, “This is what democracy looks like!” The protest contingent smartly moved to occupy the press tent in Philadelphia, where many reporters dutifully covered the story that had marched itself to their workstations.
BEST: Al Franken’s Return to Standup
The senator from Minnesota has, by and large, led a political career designed to make you forget his past as a Saturday Night Live star. But he showed off his comic chops with a deadpan riff about earning a “doctorate in megalomaniac studies at Trump University,” where a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump teaches the most popular course: “Bankruptcy 101: How to Leave Your Partners Holding the Bag.”
WORST: Trump-Putin 2016
Donald Trump stepped on the history-making nomination of his rival with a press conference the following morning in which he appeared to encourage the government of Vladimir Putin to hack Clinton’s emails. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Encouraging espionage by a foreign power marked a terrifying new low in the 2016 Trump campaign – and prompted Ted Cruz’s former spokesman to tweet out a hammer-and-sickle logo reading “PUTIN TRUMP: MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN!”
BEST: Former Sanders Staffer Punctures Conspiracy Theory
Former Bernie spokesperson Symone Sanders (no relation to the candidate) tweeted to his supporters: “Let me be clear – NO ONE STOLE THIS ELECTION! Team Sanders we did AMAZING WORK. But we lost. It’s a hard reality for some.”
WORST: Tim Kaine’s Trump Impersonation
Virginia Sen. Kaine has many outstanding qualities as a running mate. But his New York accent isn’t one of them. Democratic partisans in the convention hall ate up Kaine’s impersonation of Donald Trump, but for America’s sake, let’s hope that was a one-night routine.
Joe Biden delivered a blistering attack on Trump, which was most effective in laying bare the grotesque joy of Trump’s trademark line: “You’re fired!” which Biden said epitomized Trump’s “lack of empathy and compassion.”
“I’m not joking,” the vice president said. “Think about that. Think about that. Think about everything you learned as a child, no matter where you were raised. How can there be pleasure in saying, ‘You’re fired’? He’s trying to tell us he cares about the middle class, give me a break,” Biden said, turning the corner as only Joe Biden can: “That’s a bunch of malarkey.”
BONUS BEST: Barack Obama’s Torch Pass
It may have only been the second-best speech by an Obama at the convention, but the president’s speech passing the torch to Hillary Clinton was also one for the history books. “I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” Obama said. Obama’s speech was also hit by Bernie booers, this time when he mentioned Trump. Obama answered the disruption with a call to civic action. “Don’t boo,” he said. “Vote.”