It’s no fun to see Bill Clinton in a virtual vacuum. He’s a people person, a glad-hander, a back-rubber, a donor-stroker, a bottom-fondler. But on Tuesday night, Clinton was a prisoner of Zoom. The big dawg had no legs to rub against.
Clinton probably felt as bad about it as his audience. No extended ovation and whooping. No chance to mingle in the green room and offer a White House internship to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Not even an over-long embrace of Rosalynn Carter or a back massage from Jeffrey Epstein’s 22-year-old masseuse after an arduous journey on a private jet to Africa.
Tuesday Night was Legacy Night at the Democratic convention, which is not in Milwaukee even though it claims it is. The remote links and the absence of a howling blue mob gave Tuesday’s proceedings the feel of a breakout from a retirement home bingo session. Apart from the crowd scenes, a micro-targeted identity-politics medley, the stars were the regulars from God’s waiting room, hitting the town for one last time.
COVID-19 would go through this lot like a barium meal. So it was probably for the best that Democratic gerontocrats like perky Barney Frank, lively Chuck Schumer, young Bill Clinton and sprightly Jimmy Carter phoned it in. They all stayed awake too, which is more than most of the audience will have managed.
This bill had more exes than Zsa Zsa Gabor’s funeral. Jimmy Carter is an ex-president. Barney Frank is an ex-congressman. Bernie Sanders is an ex-communist and ex-candidate for the Democratic nomination. John Kerry is an ex-Democratic nominee and ex-Secretary of State. Caroline Kennedy is an ex-ambassador. Sally Yates is an ex-attorney general. Chuck Schumer is an extremely irritating senator.
And Bill Clinton? The Democrats are the party of #MeToo and ‘believe all women’. Bill Clinton is the entire party’s embarrassing ex, yet the DNC thought it would be a great idea if he endorsed Joe Biden and invited guffaws from the peanut gallery by giving a lecture on how a president should behave in the Oval Office.
The Democrats keep telling us they’re opposed to oligarchy and privilege. So it was inspiring to see 27-year-old Jack Schlossberg introduced to the party. Schlossberg is a member of a victimized minority, the Kennedy family. He more than earned his spot on the bill by being simultaneously able to breathe while being the grandson of President Kennedy. Rumor has it that the party matchmakers are already working on the dream ticket that could reconcile the Sanders and Biden wings of the party, Ocasio-Cortez/Schlossberg 2028.
The Democrats are supposed to be the party of showbiz. They have been so ever since the fusion of JFK and the Rat Pack. Once, the Republicans could counter that with Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. These days, they’re down to Jon Voight, a handful of second-string country singers, and Caitlyn Jenner, who used to be a Republican but has now transitioned to a Democrat. Tuesday night, though, was a tedious infomercial.
For me, the most exciting moment in this farrago of slop was when Ocasio-Cortez advocated ‘infidelity and gratitude’. That sounded much more like Bill Clinton’s Democratic party. Unfortunately I had misheard. We were being asked to work ‘in fidelity and gratitude’ for socialism and Bernie Sanders.
Of all the legends who turned out on Tuesday night, the one I felt sorry for was John Legend. As the retirement home entertainer is brought in to stimulate the surviving synapses by crooning Simon and Garfunkel hits, so Legend, a last name in search of a reputation, delivered a painfully uplifting routine at the piano. None of it possessed the rhythmic excitement of Joe Biden when he bungled reading the prompter for his tribute to Jill Biden as someone who ‘loves seriously, thinks deeply’ — surely that was written the other way round — and then warbled ‘that’s the kind of lady, lady, lady, First Lady Jill Biden will be’.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of The Spectator US.