Somehow, some way, we, as a nation, survived the past two weeks as Republican and Democratic National Conventions played out in Cleveland and Philadelphia respectively. It should come as a no surprise that our “beloved” two-party system created a whirlwind of controversy, but these 2016 conventions and the disputes that loomed over them are not anything like what my generation has seen from politicians and ordinary citizens. President Obama said himself in his speech this past Wednesday that this “is not your typical election.” The sequence of events at both conventions itself could not have supported that claim more, and in case you missed it, here are the highlights from the two-week political sh*tshow.
Most of Monday was filled with anticipation for Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, giving the speech that she supposedly had written entirely by herself. Once she delivered it, she received high praise for her poise, especially because of her status as a Slovenian immigrant whose first language is not English. Soon after the coverage for the event ended Monday, however, journalist Jarrett Hill noticed striking similarities between Melania’s speech and Michelle Obama’s address to the Democratic Convention in 2008. When the allegation proved too difficult to ignore, the Trump campaign scrambled to find an excuse for what now appeared to be obvious plagiarism in front of millions of people. These excuses ranged from Chris Christie arguing that it couldn’t be plagiarism because most of the speech was original to one spokeswoman claiming that Melania stated Republican values and that the “concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd.”
The rest of the GOP’s convention consisted of a rather lackluster lineup of speakers each night. Trump’s children spoke to the crowds in efforts to humanize their father, something his campaign has had trouble doing in the wake of virulent remarks against women and immigrants. The lineup also included Trump’s VP pick Indiana Governor Mike Pence, politicians like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, as well as some D-list celebrities like soap opera actress Kimberlin Brown, who spoke about her avocado farm in California, Scott Baio, and Antonio Sabàto, Jr. who later went on television to profess his belief that President Obama is “absolutely” a Muslim, with no clear evidence. On top of all this nonsense, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, expected to endorse Trump, instead pleaded with the GOP crowd to “vote their conscience,” which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
On the final night of the convention, Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, addressed the crowd before introducing her father later that evening. Of all the speeches the week, Ivanka really stole the show with her poise and grace as she spoke of a side of Donald Trump that most Americans did not see: the man as a father. She also outlined her father’s proposed plan for affordable childcare in an apparent effort to win over female voters, whom he has grossly alienated. Unfortunately, Ivanka’s speech was overshadowed entirely by her father’s desolate depiction of the United States devoid of factual evidence to support his claims and of basic policies that he planned to put in place.
For seventy-six minutes, Trump accepted his nomination and addressed the crowd with negativity and contempt towards minority groups, particularly Mexicans and Muslims, only to be met with cheers from the crowd before him. Calls for building a wall and chants of “lock her up!” (referring to Secretary Clinton) emanated from them, as Donald Trump continued his tirade. What upset me most watching his address, however, was his disastrous attempt at claiming that only he can keep the country safe from Islamic terrorism, even though Americans are more likely to be killed by right-wing extremists than Muslim terrorists. The dismal speech received thunderous applause from a relatively small crowd, and the balloons fell from the ceiling on the Trump family below to close the Republican National Convention.
Come Monday, it was Philly’s turn to endure the chaos of a political convention, and this time, protesters motivated by a #NeverHillary pledge and united by the message of Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, took to the streets of Philadelphia. In what appeared to be one of the most poorly timed breaking news stories, it was revealed through an alleged Russian email hack that the Democratic National Committee had worked against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during the primaries in an effort to get Hillary Clinton on the ballot, as opposed to him. It prompted the swift resignation of DNC Chair and Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Sanders still addressed the convention and endorsed Clinton while calling on his supporters who have pledged #NeverHillary to join him. Much of the convention’s theme seemed to be a call for unity after a rough primary season within the party.
Despite the protests and jeers against some speakers coming from outside the convention and within the crowd, the rest of the convention in Philadelphia was exceptional. Unlike the Republicans’ lineup of speakers, the DNC featured keynote addresses from Clinton’s VP choice Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, First Lady Michelle Obama, her husband President Barack Obama, who gave what was likely his last major public address of his presidency, Hillary Clinton’s husband former President Bill Clinton, as well as a host of celebrities, including Eva Longoria, Meryl Streep, and Angela Bassett. The political all-stars who showed up for Hillary Clinton sharply contrasted the GOP’s convention, which featured no former presidents, because all of them believe Donald Trump is unfit for the Presidency.
Some of the more moving speeches did not come from former politicians or celebrities, though. On Tuesday night, the Mothers of the Movement, the women whose children have been at the hands of police brutality or gun violence, voiced their support for Hillary Clinton as the crowd loudly chanted “Black Lives Matter.” Then, on Thursday evening, the mother of a victim from the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Christine Leinonen, spoke to the crowd about her son Christopher and his boyfriend Juan, who both died in the attack, and the need for common sense gun control in front of a teary-eyed, stunned crowd.
Also on Thursday evening, in one of the most widely talked about speeches of both conventions, Khizr and Ghazala Khan went before the crowd to speak about their son, Humayun Khan, a Muslim immigrant soldier who was killed in 2004 during a tour of duty in Iraq. Khizr Khan berated Trump as his wife stood by his side citing that Trump has sacrificed nothing compared to what his son gave to his country as a Muslim immigrant, who would be barred from entering this country under a Trump presidency. Khan finished his speech by challenging Trump to read the Constitution and then offered his own copy to the GOP nominee. Trump later responded to the speech with, “I’d like to hear his wife say something,” implying that Ghazala, a Muslim woman, was not allowed to speak in public, a common and misinformed stereotype against Islam. Ghazala Khan had, in fact, spoken to reporters following her husband’s speech.
Finally, on Thursday night, history was made when former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the crowd at the Democratic National Convention and accepted the nomination for President of the United States, the first woman to do so for a major political party. She spoke of her humble beginnings in a blue collar family and how her mother taught her the courage stand up to the bullies as a child. She credits her mother as the woman who made a fighter for what was right and who would be immensely proud of her daughter, according to Clinton’s own daughter Chelsea. Her speech read like an inspiring resume, citing her accomplishments as First Lady, Senator from New York, especially in the wake of the September 11th attacks, and as Secretary of State, while also striking the audience with hope for more progress during her time in office. In essence, it was everything Donald Trump’s speech a week prior was not, including good.
At the close of the Democratic National Convention, the balloons fell once again (to Bill’s delight), and both camps quickly resumed traveling throughout the United States. With roughly 100 days until the election, the American people still have a ways to go in this saga, but an end is finally in sight. And if anyone makes it through election season and still follows me on social media, congratulations because I don’t think I could even do that.