Yesterday, while I was on CNN via an outdoor set just a stone’s throw from the behemoth Swann Memorial Fountain that dots the center of Philadelphia’s arts corridor, a thunderstorm suddenly whipped up and blew us off set. As the network pulled the plug on the segment and we all ran for cover, getting drenched in the process, I thought to myself: This will be the worst storm of the Democratic National Convention.
The Republican National Convention was, after all, one giant man-made disaster after another. If Americans weren’t already feeling frightened enough about terrorism and our fragile economy, Donald Trump and his party plotted to scare the bejesus out of all of us—hoping to make us terrified enough to vote for a xenophobic, hate-mongering reality show star who clearly can’t be responsible for his own thumbs let alone our nation. And in addition to stoking squalls of economic anxiety and storms of hyper-nationalist and racialized resentment were disasters of speeches brimming with lies and plagiarism and convention-goers erupting in nasty jeers against Hillary Clinton.
After watching parts of the Republican National Convention, I also felt drenched—but it was from sweat, for fear of the ominously ugly direction in which Donald Trump and his supporters want to take our nation and our world. And in that sense, the Republican National Convention wasn’t just a paradox of a messy storm created by people who don’t believe in man-made causes of climate events—but an inadvertent foreshadowing of the dark days that would lie ahead in a Trump presidency.
Whereas by contrast, the Democratic National Convention is poised to be as bright and optimistic as the Democratic Party itself—an enduringly positive force for good in our politics and in our nation. Make no mistake about it, Democrats are also focused keenly on the storms and discontents in America and in our lives—on pressing economic inequality and racial discrimination, on environmental degradation and our crumbling roads and struggling schools. But we’re also the party that believes in a brighter tomorrow, the party that welcomes the rainbow that follows the rain, the party that knows the sun will rise again. The Republicans exacerbate and exploit fear to try to win votes. Democrats believe in—and invest in—hope and change.
Amidst all this, unseen forces have leaked unkind emails written by DNC staffers on the convention's eve. The mutual torment between the Sanders campaign and the DNC is not news, as Sanders himself has made clear, but this uninvited peek into the unvarnished opinions of DNC staff is catnip to the press. What's interesting is the identity of the hackers, given that they appear connected to the Russian government amid mounting evidence linking Donald Trump to Russia in general and Vladimir Putin in particular—Putin being, as Tim Kaine noted, perhaps the only person Donald Trump has never insulted. Is it a coincidence the Russian government might be behind the DNC leaks? Perhaps.
Of course, many of the emails are problematic and disconcerting on their own—such as the emails suggesting DNC staff thought of smearing Sanders because of his presumed lack of faith, which are beyond offensive. They deserve addressing and should and will be addressed. And on Sunday, it was announced that Debbie Wasserman Schultz will step down as DNC Chair following fallout from the leaks.
Still, does this cast a cloud over the Democratic National Convention? Not according to Sen. Bernie Sanders, who told CNN’s Jake Tapper the emails were outrageous but nothing different than Sanders and his allies had been suspecting all along—but then emphasizing that his focus now is, “I’m going to do everything I can to defeat [Trump], to elect Hillary Clinton and keep focusing on the real issues facing the American people.” Clearly, the Democratic primary process can always benefit from examination and reform. But in the grand scheme of things, this is a small storm that will blow over.
We cannot, of course, ignore the real storms and tumult in real people’s lives, on which both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are constantly focused. Just as the vast majority of Americans know what scientists know, that environmental climate change and thus mega-storms are the result of human action, so too are economic, racial and gender disparities the result of human acts. Inequality and injustice are not inevitable. They are preventable—if we elect a party that believes in preventing them.
Democracy is messy and this is, after all, the Democratic Party for a reason. And a certain amount of mess is a good thing, necessary to clarifying our positions and priorities and principles. But make no mistake about it, in stark contrast to the hot mess of a scary hurricane that was the Republican National Convention—a convention that threatened all Americans to vote for Trump or else—the Democratic National Convention will feel like a warm summer’s day, with all the promise and potential that an even better, brighter America holds.
What I’m seeing in Philadelphia already, and expect to see more of as the convention gets under way, is optimistic Americans coming together to define and defend a positive vision for our country and for our world—a vision that includes and unites us all and shows how we can and will be stronger together. And don’t believe Trump or anyone who tries to tell you otherwise—as much as we can all be made to fear the storms and darkness, we Americans are a fundamentally optimistic and faithful people who will always prefer the brighter path.