What Democrats are talking about as the convention starts

This is the first installment in a daily series chronicling contributor Lanny Davis's experience at the Democratic National Convention as a Maryland delegation member of the Convention Credentials Committee. Read the second installment here.

I arrived in Philadelphia about noon on Sunday for a meeting of the Democratic National Convention's Credentials Committee, of which I am a member. And it took about five minutes to pick up the general buzz: two questions I heard over and over again as we discussed the Republican convention and GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE's acceptance speech.

"Are things as bad as Trump says they are? And if they are, did he offer any solutions?"


I think the core themes of the coming presidential campaign — and the coming Democratic convention — are established by these two questions. And their answers, we expect, will be provided by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPompeo: 'We've not been successful' in changing US-Russia relations Michael Moore ties Obama to Trump's win in Michigan in 2016 The Memo: Could Kavanaugh furor spark another ‘year of the woman’? MORE and Sen. Timothy Kaine (Va.), our presumptive presidential and vice presidential nominees.

As I walked among Democratic delegates and heard those two questions repeated in various ways by whomever I talked to, there was consensus that our country faced a lot of problems. We know that many, many Americans feel economic insecurity. Wages have remained stagnant for working families for far too long. We all feel the shock of gun violence at home against police and civilians. But we also know that there is much good going on in America, and that we are far better off today under President Obama than we were eight years ago when he was first elected.

Americans also know that terrorism — from Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and 9/11 to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist groups — cannot solely be blamed on Obama and his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. We all know the roots of terrorism today are complex, the result of decades of radicalization of radical jihadists under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Only Trump could say with a straight face, with cheers by Republicans acolytes at their convention, that it is all Obama and Clinton's fault — and think he could get away with it such a blatant lie.

Of course, there is nothing mutually exclusive about acknowledging America's problems without giving up America's optimism and belief in our future that is in the bloodstream of our history and culture.

But we also sense that as the campaign unfolds, many Americans will like less and less, and find scarier and scarier, Trump's almost exclusive focus on himself.

And so that leads to the second question: What solutions to the darkness did Trump   provide Americans? Did he tell us anything — not in detail, but even in general? No.

The only example in the speech? Building a wall to protect us from murderers and rapists from Mexico, as if that was a real solution. The economy and job creation? "I" can do it. Stopping the terrorists? "I" can do it. Defeating ISIS? "I" can do it. Stopping the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to lower-wage countries? "I" can do it. 

So what exactly are his solutions? He didn’t say. "Trust me" was really his only answer.

What or whom was I reminded of?

"I will make the trains run on time."

Sorry; couldn't resist. Look up that apocryphal quote if you don't know whom or what I am referring to.

So just wait and see a different approach from the Democratic ticket.

We already heard Clinton and Kaine tell us on Friday: It's about recognizing the fears and problems as real, but also spelling out solutions and a positive, optimistic vision for the future. "We" Americans can work together and solve our problems. We always have. We always will.

We are a democracy — and we only know one approach to solving our problems.

Stronger together.

Stay tuned.

Davis is co-founder of both the Washington law firm Davis Goldberg Galper PLLC and Trident DMG, a strategic media firm specializing in crisis management. He served as special counsel to President Clinton in 1996-98 and is a regular columnist for The Hill newspaper. He has been a friend of Hillary Clinton since they were students at Yale Law School together in 1969-70.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.