Two of the moments that stood out on the second night of the Democratic National Convention: the feel-good moments of a roll call from 57 different locations across the country, and the marquee speech from Jill Biden.
“How do you make a broken family whole?” Biden, the former second lady of the United States, said from Brandywine High School In Delaware, where she once taught. “The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding—and with small acts of kindness. With bravery. With unwavering faith.”
What showed on Tuesday were producers more in the groove of a virtual convention than on night one, particularly when it came to the official business of the proceedings, the roll call vote. A throwback to the days when it really mattered and the outcome was in a bit of doubt, it’s still one of the highlights for different state delegations who get their moment in the sun.
In this case, politicos, party figures and others appeared on beaches and hillsides, in front of city landmarks and infrastructure, to announce their votes for Biden or also-ran Bernie Sanders. Rhode Island’s votes were cast on a beach as state party chairman Joseph McNamara stood next to a man holding a basket of fried calamari.
“This DNC virtual roll call is one of the first examples of a convention aspect that seems stronger than the traditional way of doing things,” wrote Yamiche Alcindor of PBS Newshour. “It’s fascinating to see the diversity of the United States and Americans in so many places with cultural and geographic differences.”
On Fox News, Karl Rove praised Democrats for keeping the focus on COVID-19: “Did you notice how many people in the roll call made reference to the COVID plague in their state and made a reference to it? And I thought that was enormously good discipline,” he said.
The roll call also got out of the claustrophobic feel of Zoom boxing. On CBS News, Margaret Brennan said that “even though we’re in people’s living rooms, at least traveling around to the delegates, maybe people feel like they’ve gotten off their living room couches tonight for the first time in a while.”
The intent of Jill Biden’s speech was to introduce a side of her husband that viewers may not otherwise know, but the subtext, given its locale in an empty classroom, was that parents worried or stressed out over whether to send their kids back to school can put their trust in the Democratic ticket.
“Yes, so many classrooms are quiet right now.,” she said “The playgrounds are still. But if you listen closely, you can hear the sparks of change in the air.”
She added, “We just need leadership worthy of our nation. Worthy of you. Honest leadership to bring us back together—to recover from this pandemic and prepare for whatever else is next.”
Some Hollywood figures contributed to the production: A video on the friendship between Joe Biden and John McCain was directed by Davis Guggenheim and Octavia Spencer. An introductory video on Jill Biden was directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, helmed the documentary RBG.
The night included sections focused on policy, including segments on healthcare and national security, but the more personal moments were the ones that were the standouts, including the McCain-Biden video and a speech by Democratic activist Ady Barkan.
The idea was to showcase Biden’s character in a contrast to Trump, even if it was implicit. Jill Biden, for instance, did not even mention his name in her remarks.
“It’s hard to imagine a more powerful advocate for Joe Biden than his wife Jill Biden,” said Martha MacCallum, anchor of The Story, on Fox News. “That was a very strong speech. … She had a hopeful message that I think we have been sort of waiting to hear over the last couple of days.”
On NBC News, Savannah Guthrie said, Jill Biden “was a character witness and told the heartbreak that their family had been through not once but twice and made that a metaphor for what she says the country is going through and how you put a country back together.”
The most ironic moment, though, were the short remarks from Jacquelyn Asbie, who gave one of the nominating speeches for Biden. She was the New York Times security guard who saw Biden in an elevator and showered praise on him as he rode up the elevator to his endorsement interview with the editorial board. Biden was rejected by the board in favor of Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, but the moment in the elevator was captured on the FX series The Weekly and went viral.
ABC News Live Prime anchor Linsey Davis said that Asbie was the “most powerful character witness” because she said of Biden, “He saw me.” “And I think that really resonates at a time when people are feeling, in this country especially, that they need to feel seen and feel heard,” she said.
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