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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
FILE - Michael Blake, New York state assemblyman from the South Bronx, delivers the keynote address at the Utah Democratic Party 2018 Convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 28, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY —A week ago Utah Republicans met in a hockey rink and NHL-worthy fights broke out regularly for nearly 12 hours. Saturday, Utah Democrats convened at the Salt Palace sharing the convention center with an energy healing conference and a Tai Kwon Do martial arts competition. Many wondered if a full-contact moment of silence might result.

To their credit the Utah Democrats worked swiftly and strategically to move through their nominations and platform. Progressives and moderates traded a few jabs but it was a good day for Utah Democrats.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
FILE - People cast their ballots at the Utah Democratic Party 2018 Convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 28, 2018.

Here is what we learned:

1. Brevity and clarity lead to a focus on unity. The Democratic Party leadership should be commended for its work to take the party platform from 24 pages down to two. Focusing on the principles that unite a party is a far better exercise than spending countless hours getting deep into the weeds on every possible issue. This usually results in a document no one reads and internal fights that can divide your ranks for decades. In full disclosure I was part of just such an effort at the 2016 GOP national convention where I proposed a one page, 1,176 word platform of principles in contrast to the 65-page, 33,000-word tome the GOP adopted instead.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, spoke prior to the platform discussion and implored the delegates to support the new platform, declaring they will be more successful unifying around principles than having purity tests and splitting hairs on platform language — like the GOP. The delegates made only minor changes, adding in language on marijuana, the death penalty and equal rights before adopting the document. This could be the most important change in a long time for the future success of Utah Democrats.

2. It is easier to run against things than for things. Despite rousing speeches from Sim Gill and National Democratic National Committee Vice Chairman Michael Blake — who called upon Utah Democrats to focus on what principles and policies Democrats are for — most of the election speeches centered in lists of grievances and things the candidates were against. Being against President Donald Trump, Mitt Romney and Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, were prominent.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
FILE - Shireen Ghorbani, center, accepts congratulations from Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, left, after Ghorbani won the democratic nomination for Utah's 2nd congressional district at the Utah Democratic Party 2018 Convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 28, 2018.

Gill, with a prime speaking slot and possibly kicking off a 2020 gubernatorial run, encouraged delegates to share why Democrats are good. Blake said they could win as Hillary-Democrats, Sanders-Democrats or Obama-Democrats, but they needed to be Utah-Democrats. When it came around to wooing delegates in candidate speeches, it was more standard progressive talking points.

3. Change is hard. Many of the speakers and party leaders spoke of youth and diversity and how vital both are to the party and its future success. Yet looking out at the audience, the crowd looked very similar, but smaller in number, to the GOP convention — mostly older and whiter delegates.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
FILE - People cast their ballots at the Utah Democratic Party 2018 Convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 28, 2018.

The message here is clear: Neither Democrats nor Republicans are giving young people a reason to join their party. Both sides tout that millennials will comprise more than 50 percent of the vote in 2018 but neither side has figured out how to truly make them part of their coalition.

4. Utah delegates don't like coronations or moderates but are OK with well-known moderate candidates if they think they are the best chance for victory.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
FILE - Jenny Wilson, running for U.S. Senate, speaks at the Utah Democratic Party 2018 Convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 28, 2018.

5. Political speeches still matter and are harder to deliver than you think. The speeches Saturday included some awkward moments, a number of candidates running out of time and having their microphone cut before they delivered their close, a candidate calling the delegates "stupid" and a host of other bloopers common to conventions. Blake, the DNC vice chairman, delivered the most powerful presentation of the day, which was really more of a revival sermon than a political speech. He moved the audience with soaring rhetoric and syncopated repetition. He had delegates on their feet and emotionally stirred. He had them chanting, "I will vote" and committing to make a difference, not just in the election but in their communities.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
FILE - Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, running for congress in the 4th district, speaks with his family beside him at the Utah Democratic Party 2018 Convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 28, 2018.
16 comments on this story

My column this week is about why inspiring oratory still matters. Blake demonstrated why it matters and the difference it can make. He had done his homework, and not just the easy stuff about the Jazz winning Friday night. He rattled off counties including Daggett, San Juan, Iron and Kane — without notes. There was only one moment where he lost the audience, when he pointed out that he did not stand for the national anthem. Utah Democrats fully support his right to do so, but it clearly distracted from a speech that delivered on every other front.

It ended up being a very good day for Democrats. They have legitimate candidates for all major races. While their ability to ride a blue wave and create a blue tsunami in very red Utah will be difficult, they held a successful convention and are positioned to see if the rhetoric of the spring can be transformed into votes and victories in the fall.