Diane Abbott's Daily Reports from the floor of the DNC: Day Three
The Democratic National Convention made history last night. It was the first time that the partner of the presidential nominee got to do anything other than look up adoringly at their beloved. Instead this partner got to speak for a whole hour eulogising their mate. But this partner was President Bill Clinton and the presidential nominee was his wife of over forty years Hilary Rodham Clinton.
The speech was perhaps a little too long. It was as if Bill realised it was his last major speech at a convention and was determined to make the most of it. But the delegates were ready to indulge him. Bill Clinton remains hugely popular with the Democratic faithful. The scandals have all been forgiven and forgotten. Instead what people remember is the prosperity of the Clinton years before the great financial crash. The heyday of Bill Clinton was before people lost their faith in bankers, markets and free trade. So it exists in the popular imagination in a permanent sun-filled glow.
But Bill Clinton's speech, if over lengthy, was genuinely touching. It was a determined attempt to humanise Hilary by the man who knows her better than anyone. And the speech began with moving line "In the spring of 1971, I met a girl..."
But yesterday was also notable for the roll call vote which officially made Hilary the nominee. In UK political conferences the result of leadership elections are read out by some sober official. But the Democratic Convention has a "roll call" vote where someone from every single state gets to read how many votes they are casting and for who. For most of these delegates this is their few minutes of fame. And over the years delegates have managed to cram more and more information in about the glories of their state, before stating what they are doing with their vote. Everybody knows what the result of the "roll call" vote is before it begins. But somehow, sitting in the convention, there is a sense of rising tension until the final state announces the votes that will put the winner over the top. Last they allowed Bernie Sanders to make the final announcement that Hilary Clinton was the official Democratic nominee. Presumably this was to avoid booing by, still fractious, Bernie supporters. If so it worked.
But later today the Convention will hear from, another truly historic presidential nominee, Barack Obama. Expect tears from the assembled delegates.
Diane Abbott is the shadow health secretary and Labour MP for Hackney North. She is currently attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as an international delegate representing the Labour Party
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