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Three big picture takeaways from Wednesday night’s DNC

Obama delivers searing take down of Trump
Barack Obama: “For close to four years now, [President Donald Trump] has shown no interest in putting in the work."

Typically the party that occupies the White House goes last in holding its national political convention and typically there is some benefit to that. Yes, it allows this party to make the final argument to voters, but also to learn some things from the previous convention.

For Republicans, who are scheduled to hold their own virtual convention next week, 2020 may provide the biggest example of how one party can borrow some ideas from the other.

And, as Democrats try to figure out this new kind of convention, they are getting better tactically at it each night. Whereas Monday was often awkward, Wednesday’s third night was better produced and there was more of an emotional core, with Barack Obama, Gabby Giffords, and activists from Moms Demand Action on gun violence talking directly to the camera.


Here are three big picture takeaways from the third night:

Women, women, women

Women were the major theme of the evening. This is fitting because they are the backbone of the Democratic Party and the focus leading up to the formal nomination of only the third woman ever, Kamala Harris, to be picked as a vice presidential running mate. (Oh, women are also expected to be the majority of voters.)

From the moms to Giffords to New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and Harris, women’s voices were the through-line of the night. (And for the third night in a row, the convention had a female actress serve as emcee.)

Elizabeth Warren talks child care, economy at DNC
Elizabeth Warren: "It's time to recognize that child care is part of the basic infrastructure of this nation."

Obama on the attack

As presidential historian Michael Beschloss said on Twitter, “No former President has ever attacked his incumbent successor at a convention like Barack Obama tonight, or even come close.”

Obama has tip-toed back into politics because of Trump’s unique presidency (which, among other things, features constant criticism of Obama) but his speech on Wednesday night was blistering.


“For close to four years now, he has shown no interest in putting in the work,” said Obama. “No interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

But beyond the words was the way Obama used the medium of the virtual stage. He didn’t speak to an audience in front of him, as would be the case at previous conventions, but directly to the camera and to the viewer at home.

Kamala Harris formally nominated as Democrats’ pick for VP
Harris accepted the Democratic nomination for VP, cementing her status as a leader in a party staking its future on building a diverse coalition of voters.

Harris made history

Harris, meanwhile, was not served well by the setup the Democratic Party and Joe Biden’s campaign provided. They tried to replicate a convention feel, but it lacked the intimacy of Warren’s or Obama’s speeches because she had to play to an empty room filled with traditional state placards. There even appeared to be several applause lines built into the speech as if she were delivering it to a packed audience — but, again, she wasn’t.

And, at the end, there was even virtual clapping. It made it weird.

But Harris’s mere presence was an important moment in American history as the first Black woman and Asian American nominated on a major party’s presidential ticket. Still, nothing that she actually said Wednesday night really will be remembered. (Does anyone remember a vice presidential convention speech beyond Sarah Palin’s, anyway?)

James Pindell can be reached at Follow him @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.