The DNC’s Second Night Was an Ode to Centrism

Joe Biden is a conservative Democrat. It’s part of the reason why Barack Obama selected him as his running mate back in 2008, and it’s a big part of why so many former Republican legislators are lining up to endorse him. The DNC believes Biden’s moderateness allows him to appeal to a section of voters who might never normally vote for a Democrat. So it was only a matter of time until we saw something like this.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke during the virtual convention’s second night, offering effusive praise for Biden and endorsing him for president. Powell, of course, is best known for lying to the United Nations Security Council to grease the wheels for America to invade Iraq, which led to the deaths of more than half a million Iraqis and 5,000 U.S. soldiers. At best he’s a disgraced former general entitled to zero political cachet or influence; at worst he’s a real live war criminal. And the Democratic Party offered him a speaking slot at their national convention.

The DNC has made its priorities clear—they’re reaching toward the nebulous middle, trying to appeal to disaffected Trump supporters. They’re certain that dissatisfied leftists will ultimately vote for Biden or not affect the outcome. Most of the second night’s programming was centered around Biden’s penchant for reaching across the aisle, including a tribute from the late Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy. That’s all well and good, even if you fundamentally disagree with the party’s strategy and think the demographic they’re targeting is far smaller and less significant than they’re letting on. Still, it sure seems like they could’ve found someone better to discuss Biden’s ability to “unite” than someone who lied the U.S. into an illegal war.

People who actually watch the Democratic National Convention (or cable news) for political information might take Powell, McCain, and Kasich at face value. On the surface, the Democrats are clearly reaching out to their opponents for help to defeat a once-in-a-lifetime threat in Donald Trump. But including Republican voices in your party’s convention isn’t just extending an olive branch—it’s a sign of whose voices the Democratic Party is willing to elevate to win presidential power.

The idea that Republican influence will stop at convention speeches is ludicrous. Dems have always caped for Republican approval, so much so that one could reasonably argue their only real political goal is getting their political opponents to agree with them. They could care less about leftist legislators or the overwhelming majority of Democratic voters who favor popular progressive policies like universal healthcare and free college tuition. The DNC’s ideal voter is someone who still believes Colin Powell has any kind of credibility.

The night continued with Biden discussing healthcare and mentioning several times how he lost his wife in a car accident and his son Beau to brain cancer. Biden’s conceit is that his family was lucky because they were insured, and that he would fight to bring affordable healthcare to all Americans and “protect” them like they were his own family. Now as before, it seems like the easiest way to make sure all Americans are insured (and that their insurance isn’t tethered to their employment status) is to offer some form of universal healthcare. Instead, Biden continued on his campaign path of pledging to rebuild the Affordable Care Act, making only a glancing reference to a public option. It’s still the perfect Democratic position, since it excites roughly no one, placates their donors, and can be padded with politispeak so that no real change is actually necessary.

For all its moderate hackery, the DNC’s second night had its nice moments. The state roll call was enjoyable, particularly Rhode Island’s Joseph McNamara toting the state’s calamari. The video about Joe and Jill Biden’s relationship, as well as the former Second Lady’s speech about her husband, were as heartwarming as these things get. Warm hearts and fuzzy moments don’t exactly make up for war criminals, though.

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