It is Day Four of the Democratic National Convention and while this is the first Zoom/Webex/Skype meeting in US history, it's had some unexpected, positive consequences. We got to see 50 states in the virtual nomination roll call instead or a bunch of drunken conventioneers wearing funny hats, pushing and shoving to get air time. It enabled us to have an appreciation for the diversity, not only of our people, but of this incredible land that we're blessed to live on. It was something to celebrate at a time when there is so much pain, tragedy and division. You would think we'd be unified about our incredible landscape, wouldn't you? Maybe not...
Biden's campaign theme and strategy is based on decency and normalcy, neither of which has been in great supply during the past 20 years, no less the last four. The metamessages were pretty clear too: We're better than this. This crazy quilt of people, backgrounds, ethnicities and skills are what's always made America great. And finally, all this is under existential threat and worth fighting for. We're all in and all in this together, because if we're not, William Butler Yeats becomes even more prophetic,
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
In some ways, this was as much about media as message. Without the histrionics of 20,000 people and the need for speakers to command a chaotic room, this convention was far more thoughtful and intimate. By necessity, we were one-on-one with each speaker, not at all influenced by camera angles, intensity of applause, or cutting to reaction shots of the crowd. It was pure. It was direct. Whether it will be successful as a campaign tool is yet to be seen.
Political strategists often talk about trying to encourage confirmation bias for their candidates and their ideas. Much of that comes from crowd reactions--people seen applauding, waving signs, and talking together--which is why mass-media TV remains a more powerful advertising medium than one-to-one digital media. When lots of people support a candidate, that in itself is validation. Which is why Trump is so addicted to his rallies--he gets instant confirmation that his every narcissistic utterance is good and right. It's the living version of the dopamine hit people get when their social media posts are liked and attract thousands of followers--on a grand scale.
So, on the eve of what promises to be perhaps the most brutally negative and polarizing convention since the South seceded from the Union, it remains to be seen how media as a vehicle will play. Initial post-DNC polls show Biden holding steady and not getting a big bounce in preference, but gaining significantly in enthusiasm. Wonder how much of that was due to the presentation, not the content--one can only imagine what might have happened if the same themes were delivered in a room of 25,000 people.
It remains to be seen how this will play for Trump, who's base is set in concrete, much like his hatred and contempt for our country, its laws and mores. He needs to bring new people in, not activate an insurrection if he's going to win. From what I can gather from the pollsters and pundits from both sides who know these things, there is about 6%-8% of voters in play--Trump needs everyone of them. But his tactics will makes that virtually impossible. It is clear that he's conceded any chance of winning a legitimate election and is working overtime to ensure the entire process is either deemed illegitimate or that the process itself is so broken that is simply cannot function. He's been crystal-clear about his intentions. Why he hasn't been locked up for sedition at this stage is a mystery.