Many commentators, watching the two parties’ conventions, have noted that Democrats and Republicans seemed to describing different countries. But if you listened carefully last night, you heard two groups of Democrats describing different countries, too.
The night began with Michelle Obama, who said, “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters—two beautiful, intelligent, black young women—play with the dog on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all of our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States. Don't let anyone ever tell you that this country is not great. That somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on Earth.”
It’s not surprising that Michelle delivered a narrative of racial and gender progress. It’s the story of her life, and it doubles as a defense of her husband’s presidency. But it’s a narrative that’s also congenial to Hillary Clinton. Clinton is running the campaign her husband wishes Al Gore had run in 2000: a campaign about building on the progress a successful president has made.
But when Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders took the stage later in the evening, the convention began to sound much more like the campaign Gore actually ran: the dark and angry, “people versus the powerful.” Warren said: “I’m worried that opportunity is slipping away for people who work hard and play by the rules.” Sanders talked about “the 40-year decline of our middle class” (40 years that include the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), called American inequality “grotesque,” and said America was moving “toward oligarchy.”