Over four days this week, hundreds of speeches bellowed through the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Politicians, thought leaders, and a random mix of liberal-leaning celebrities took the stage, many calling for unity against a backdrop of hyperpolarization that has come to define this election cycle. The media swarmed and activists chanted; the air inside and out was charged with an intoxicating flurry of patriotism and worry.
A scandal rocked the convention even before it officially began. On July 22, WikiLeaks published a cache of internal emails from Democratic National Committee senior staffers, revealing that they spoke of tactics to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign and favoured Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, despite the fact the committee is supposed to remain neutral throughout the primaries. Then, on Sunday night, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a representative from Florida, resigned from her post as chairwoman of the national committee. The revelations loomed over the week’s fanfare and sparked protests inside and outside the convention.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the U.S. intelligence community has “high confidence” that Moscow was behind the hack, something the Clinton campaign purported from the start despite little evidence.
By the time HRC took the stage Thursday night to end the week, a number of events and emotions of note had already taken place. For those who missed it, here are the takeaways worth noting:
1. Hillary made history.
On the second day of the convention, Hillary Clinton clinched the democratic nomination, making her the first woman to be chosen by a major party to run for president of the United States. Clinton appeared via live stream to address the audience saying Democrats “just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling” to thunderous applause.
In possibly the most important speech of her decades-long political career, Clinton closed the convention on Thursday night by saying that America is “at a moment of reckoning.” After being introduced by her daughter, Chelsea, who told stories of her childhood and spoke of her unfaltering admiration for her mother, Clinton made a case for her credibility and judgment. Rather than asking Democrats to trust her outwardly, Clinton rebuffed her dedication to public service and experience as a senator and secretary of state as if to say, “Even if you don’t trust me, know I can do the job right.”
She also made a wayward pitch to Bernie Sanders’ supporters.
And declared her nomination a victory for all American: “When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”
2. Trump stole the spotlight.
In an unprecedented move on Wednesday, Republican nominee Donald Trump called on Russia to engage in cyber espionage against his opponent, sparking outrage at the DNC and causing a media storm.
Trump’s running mate, Governor of Indiana Mike Pence, offered a different stance, issuing a statement that warned of “serious consequences” if Russia interfered with the U.S. election.
Trump later claimed his own remarks were “sarcastic.”
At the press conference in Florida this week, Trump also claimed he would recognize Crimea as Russian territory and lift sanctions against Russia.
3. Bill Clinton told Muslims to “stay here.”
On Monday, in his familiar Southern drawl, Bill Clinton spoke of his admiration for his wife and shared stories, from their first date to their time in the White House together. Though, his speech, which aimed to humanize Hillary by letting voters in on carefully selected aspects of their private lives together, was overshadowed by an odd one-liner: “If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together, we want you.”
The bizarre statement caused a flurry of reactions online:
As Stephen Zhou explains in the Islamic Monthly, Bill Clinton’s one liner, no matter how odd, reveals “how sensitive Muslims now are to the way they’re talked about and portrayed” in light of the xenophobic rhetoric peddled by the Republican party this election cycle.
4. Michelle Obama for President?
The first lady gave a stirring speech Monday night, in which she heralded Hillary as a champion of women’s rights and stressed the importance of women role models in politics.
Her words are worth quoting at length:
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” she said. “And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.”
Shortly after she stepped off the stage, Twitter erupted with calls for FLOTUS to run for president.
5. Tim Kaine was introduced to America.
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, Clinton’s selection for vice-president, was swiftly approved on Day Two of the convention. Though, a Gallop poll showed more than six in 10 Americans have either never heard of Kaine or don’t know enough about him to have an opinion on him. In his speech on Wednesday night, Kaine accepted the Democratic nomination for vice-president and introduced himself to Americans; he spoke of his upbringing in Kansas City, his volunteer trip with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras, experience as a civil rights lawyer, and later, as a public servant. Much to the crowd’s amusement, Kaine did his best impersonation of Republican nominee Donald Trump (he could take a few pointers from SNL’s Darrell Hammond), joining the endless line of speakers warning of his inadequacies to be commander-in-chief.
6. Obama passed the torch to Clinton.
In contrast to the cynicism of the Republican convention in Cleveland last week, President Barack Obama spoke of his hope for the future, as is his signature, and touted a more optimistic vision of America. He also criticized Trump, at first jokingly, then taking a more serious tone.
“What we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative,” he said. “What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world.” Shouts of “Four more years,” could be heard in the background.
POTUS even gave a shout out to Bernie Sanders’ supporters praising their persistence. “That’s right – feel the Bern!”
His speech garnered many standing ovations and cheers as he passed on the torch to Clinton, who later joined him onstage for a surprise appearance. And, as a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush observed, traditional party rhetoric has shifted:
7. ‘Bernie or Bust’ protesters riled the convention.
After a day of marked by protests in support of Bernie Sanders and against the Democratic National Committee in light of the email scandal, the senator from Vermont took the stage to thank his supporters for their devotion and called upon them to vote for Clinton come November in an effort to soothe party divisions.
“Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here tonight,” he said. He later added that together they have worked to create the “most progressive” party platform in Democratic history. His supporters in the convention hall were overcome by emotion, some in tears as he spoke.
‘Bernie or Bust’ protesters took to the streets Monday morning and continued throughout the week (prompting comedian and Bernie supporter Sarah Silverman to respond: “You’re being ridiculous.”
Activists held signs that read, “Never Hillary,” covered their mouths with tape, and donned neon shirts that said, “Enough is Enough,” and at one point, burned an American flag.
On Tuesday night, pro-Sanders delegates walked out of the convention hall in protest and engaged in a sit-in at a media tent.
8. The father of a fallen Muslim soldier moved us.
On the final day of the convention, the parents of Humayun Khan, a Muslim captain in the U.S. army who died after running towards a vehicle packed with explosives as it approached their military compound in Iraq in 2003, offered perhaps the most scornful reproach of Trump.
“If it was up to Donald Trump, [Humayun] never would have been in America,” Humayun’s father, Khizer Khan said.
“Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy,” he said pulling out a copy of the constitution from his pocket and waving it in the air.
9. The event marked the first time an openly transgender person spoke at a national convention.
Sarah McBride became the first openly transgender person to speak at a national convention on Thursday. She lauded the progress of LGBTQ rights in the U.S. under the Obama administration but stressed that the fight is far from over.
She shared a heart-wrenching story of falling in love with her husband Andy, who was a transgender man, and their collective fight for equality. Andy passed away five days after their wedding, she said, after battling terminal cancer.
“Today in America, LGBTQ people are targeted by hate that lives in both laws and hearts. Many still struggle just to get by. But I believe tomorrow can be different,” she said, ending her speech on an optimistic note.
10. “Mothers of the Movement” took on gun violence.
The mothers of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Mike Brown, Hadiya Pendleton, Dontré Hamilton, Oscar Grant and Sandra Bland took the stage to denounce gun violence and the targeting of racial minorities by police.
“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, Jordan Davis’ mother. “His life ended the day he was shot and killed for playing loud music, but my job as his mother didn’t.”
They called for “common sense gun legislation,” a call echoed earlier during the convention by Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot in the head in 2011 and now suffers from severe brain damage.
“This isn’t about being politically correct, this is about saving our children,” said Sybrina Fulton, mother Trayvon Martin.