John and Sasha,
Convention floors are designed, by teams of very talented elves, to reflect our stereotypes of the parties. The Tampa convention setup was busy, but navigable. The Charlotte convention floor is a mess, even on Night 1. Your short conversation with a delegate will be cut short by a well-meaning, tired-eyed delegate who NEEDS TO CLEAR THE AISLE! CLEAR THE AISLE! The effect of all this is that people seem to be hyped up constantly, jumping to grab hunks of bloody meat with their back teeth.
I got to the floor right after the Ted Kennedy tribute video. It was a little jarring. We’ve seen Kennedy/Camelot videos before, but we’ve never seen them change up halfway through and turn into attacks on the guy the Democrats are running against. Delegates lit up when the spectral Ted debated Romney, and laughed when the 1994 version of Romney defended Roe v. Wade. “The ghost of Ted Kennedy really brought it all together,” said Nathan Wilkes, a Colorado delegate. (We would have talked more, but he started pumping his fist when openly gay Rep. Jared Polis came onstage, and a very nice floor guide encouraged me to KEEP MOVING.)
It all started to remind me of the 2004 Republican National Convention. Every important moment from that week was brutal on John Kerry. The memorable stuff from tonight—pre-Michelle—was aimed right at Mitt Romney’s groin. The Kennedy video was the most surprising, but the tone was there even during the softer-focus segments on Barack Obama’s domestic record. Republicans, said Rep. Gwen Moore, “have even tried to change the definition of rape.” Romney had, apparently, personally insulted Tammy Duckworth—the icon of Dems’ veteran outreach efforts—by failing to mention Afghanistan.
This was before the Assault on Switzerland. Harry Reid: “We learned he chose Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island tax shelters over American institutions.” Martin O’Malley: “Swiss bank accounts never built an American bridge.” Ted Strickland: “Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport.” There was policy buried in there, kind of (it’s about tax rates), but it was more about repainting Mitt Romney as a gormless, passionless, arrogant rich jerk. Even the Julian Castro speech went after Romney with that “Gee, why didn’t I try that?” line about borrowing money from your parents. If Castro’s keynote was meant to evoke Obama’s 2004 speech, well, that Obama speech was representative of the whole post-9/11 “you can trust us, we’re nice” Democratic theme. Obama never even mentioned George W. Bush in that speech. None of that nicety this time.
Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.