‘I’m in love — but not with anybody here. I’ll see you in a couple years,’ Billie Eilish crooned during the third night of the Democratic National Convention. The teen vocalist was singing her new single ‘My Future’, but the lyrics could just as easily be a rallying cry for the young progressives kicked in the teeth yet again by the Democratic establishment.
Democrats love to boast about their youth support and the party’s future generation of leaders, but their convention displays a political party that is fully enamored with the past. It’s not wrong for them to make the calculation that young people don’t vote and thus they’re better off trying to bring in moderates who sat out 2016 or held their nose and voted for Trump. But the empty pandering to zoomers and millennials while nominating the oldest presidential candidate of all time and a truancy officer reeks of dishonesty. Is it any wonder these kiddos might wait ‘a couple years’ before getting excited about being affiliated with the Democratic party again?
The DNC opened its third night once again with a video mashup of self-proclaimed Republicans who are voting for former Vice President Joe Biden. That’s certainly not a good sign for left-wingers who hoped the relative success of Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary and the emergence of ‘The Squad’ in Congress would bolster their standing within the party. Instead, they were met with empty woke platitudes from the establishmentarians who gave them more war and more corporatism.
Hillary Clinton, who lamented the rise of the ‘Bernie Bros’ and attributed Bernie’s criticisms of her to sexism, was presented as a progressive trailblazer for allegedly breaking the ‘glass ceiling’. A video comparing the Women’s March to the suffragette movement condescendingly referred to the stunningly brave women in politics as ‘rabble-rousers’, ‘rule breakers’, and ‘force[s] of nature’. It was a cheap and boring stunt that wasn’t nearly as subversive as intended.
The speakers peppered in references to economic inequality — a major concern of many of the party’s younger members — but opted not to offer solutions to this issue. President Obama mentioned that during the coronavirus pandemic, everyday Americans have struggled while ‘those at the top take in more than ever’. He blamed Trump and his obsession with personal enrichment for this phenomenon, even as his own administration stood idly by while jobs were shipped overseas to China and he graduated from the Oval Office to the board of Netflix. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the cable news host for liberal wine moms, moaned in millennial: ‘President Obama’s speech tonight slayed me.’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her loose dentures managed to skip her nod to progressives entirely. ‘Joe Biden will build a fairer America that works for all, not just the few’ was written in a transcript of her speech sent out by the DNC but it didn’t manage to make it into her pre-recorded video for the convention.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren offered the only real policy prescription of the evening by advocating for affordable childcare and universal pre-K. She also gave her speech standing in a classroom in front of ‘BLM’ spelled out in alphabet blocks, a perfect example of the party’s performative wokeness. Videos showed illegal immigrants demanding healthcare and denouncing putting children in cages on the border even though Biden has refused to support single-payer healthcare and was part of an administration that also separated families at the border and oversaw some of the highest rates of deportation. The entire night was confusing. Rather than embrace a set of coherent values, the Democrats shape-shifted so they could be the least offensive to the most number of people.
Even the celebrity appearances, a classic Democratic move to draw in youngsters, were a flop. Eilish sounded bored and maybe even a little angry during her Biden endorsement, allowing her hair to cover one of her eyes as she spoke. The other performer, a singer named Prince Royce (I am 26 and did not know who he was), turned the Ben E. King classic ‘Stand By Me’ into a reggae-tinged nightmare. Other cameos included USWNT star Megan Rapinoe and Mariska Hargitay, both more boomer bait than TikTok treats.
Harris capped the night with a boring speech filled with empty platitudes about family and unity and very little substance. Her introduction credited her with ‘reducing recidivism’, which I suppose is quite easy to do if you just lock everyone up forever. The closest anyone got to addressing health care was bemoaning that Trump is trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. You’d think the party would double down on the issue that won them the 2018 midterms, but then they would have to grapple with the very real division between moderates who support more subtle reforms or a public option and progressives who demand a single-payer system.
Ultimately, a virtual convention meant that the Democratic establishment was once again able to avoid the tough conversation of where the party is heading. They sabotaged Bernie in 2016 and now they’re offering his supporters a chocolate-covered onion: the same old policies dipped in catchphrases about transgender rights and Hollywood glitz. Eilish would have been better off singing ‘Bad Guy’ in protest.