Hillary Clinton’s Major Convention Challenge? Calming Dissent

Clinton will need to use the DNC to ease tensions with the party’s progressive wing.

To impose some structure on your viewing of this week’s Democratic National Convention (or on your reading about it), consider tracking how party leaders – mainly Hillary Clinton, since it’s her show – manage these major challenges and opportunities:

Challenges

-The inherent conflict in arguing that President Obama did a great job, but things need to change. Obama has endorsed Clinton and has already started campaigning for her; it’s in both their interests to be seen as a team. But polling shows that voters massively believe the country is “on the wrong track,” that most of them think the economy is terrible, and that most don’t like Obamacare. Clinton can’t tell voters “I feel your pain,” as her husband did so famously and successfully in 1992 (and by the way, the economy was growing far faster then than it is today). Yet she must somehow connect with people’s dissatisfaction while promising that she can fix what Obama couldn’t. A delicate assignment. She’ll presumably blame the Republicans for all problems, a nifty way of urging voters to vote Dem down the whole ballot. But while the electorate is deeply unhappy, spending too much time acknowledging their mood risks souring the optimistic, hopeful message Clinton hopes to orchestrate, in contrast to the GOP convention’s emphasis on fear and anger.

-Smoothing over disunity in the party. “Discord for the Party on Eve of Its Convention” is the lead story in Monday morning’s New York Times – exactly the opposite of what the Democrats wanted. The release of 19,000 Democratic National Committee emails over the weekend, apparently timed by Russian hackers for maximum embarrassment to Clinton, shows DNC staff plotting against Bernie Sanders during the primaries. His supporters are furious, and he dissed her running mate, Tim Kaine, on a Sunday morning interview show. Sanders speaks Monday evening. He has already endorsed Clinton; anything less than a full-throated, podium-pounding endorsement on Monday will look like the Dems’ own Ted Cruz betrayal.

-Balancing support of police and support of police victims. Mothers of African-American men and women who have died at the hands of police are scheduled to appear onstage Tuesday night. Philadelphia’s police union has lambasted Clinton for not also inviting family members of slain police officers. Will the schedule be amended?

Opportunities

-Star power. For sheer high-wattage celebrity, this convention should far outshine the GOP shindig last week. Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, several senators, at least two governors, and the mayors of New York and Los Angeles are scheduled to speak. Entertainers Lena Dunham, Debra Messing, Demi Lovato, and several more will be on the scene; they aren’t on the official program, but don’t be surprised if some appear onstage.

-Trump bashing. As a target, he exceeds every political speechwriter’s wildest dreams. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, if the Dems can do it, could resonate for weeks or months.

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