This almost seems unfair.
So the DNC held the second day of its convention in Charlotte last night and, in my opinion, surpassed what they had already achieved on day one. The night got off to a rocky start with some shenanigans about putting the words “God-given” back into the official platform, because Republicans once again successfully trolled Democrats into doing something with no substantive effect whatsoever. So, the word “God” appears in the platform now. Problem solved! Republicans will like the president now!
After that embarrassing start, it really looked like day two was going to be a bit of a letdown from the emotional impact of day one. The speakers in the early hours (and before the networks picked up the broadcast) were not quite as enthusiastic or polished. A trio of speakers who had worked at companies shut down by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital all told stories about what it meant to lose their jobs, and all made sure to explicitly say that they understood that companies succeed and fail, that’s how the system works, but it’s wrong that Bain Capital made money off that failure while the workers got the shaft.
Then, at 7 PM Pacific (10 PM Eastern? I guess? Does anyone care about the East coast? I doubt it.) when the networks started broadcasting, Sandra Fluke took the stage. If you don’t remember Sandra Fluke, she was the young woman who Republicans blocked from testifying before Congress about contraception because they felt it was more important to hear from this panel of experts instead:
Fluke was then subjected to three days of some of the most vicious lies and smears that you could imagine being broadcast on the radio by Rush Limbaugh, which I posted about back when it happened. While Mitt Romney responded to Rush’s foul attacks by saying he “wouldn’t have chosen those words” (so brave!), President Obama called Fluke personally to apologize for the attacks she was enduring.
Here is Fluke’s speech, in which she reminded us that we have a choice between two men. One of whom, Mitt Romney, was too afraid to criticize Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama who…
…when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters—not his delegates or donors—and stands with all women.
Well, that didn’t suck.
Next up was Elizabeth Warren, who is running against Scott Brown for the Senate seat once held by Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts. For the last month I’ve been hearing a lot of concern trolling by supposedly centrist journalists who said that Obama was taking a huge risk by associating himself with the “deeply polarizing” Warren.
The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Warren’t populist message that people should be angry at Wall Street for their role in the financial meltdown of 2008 doesn’t resonate with voters. Yes, people get paid to write that kind of crap. I know. I don’t get it either.
Warren did the unthinkable in her speech, actually telling the American people that the system is rigged:
People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they’re right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down the billions in profits. Billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, and Wall Street CEOs, the same ones the direct our economy and destroyed millions of jobs still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.
Does anyone here have a problem with that?
And here is her talking about Mitt:
After all, Mitt Romney is the guy who said corporations are people. No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people.
People have hearts. They have kids. They get jobs. They get sick. They cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die, and that matters. That matters.
Here is all of her speech:
But then. Well, then it was time for the Big Dog. Once again the conventional wisdom in Washington had it completely wrong. All week they’ve been suggesting that Clinton would not be an effective speaker for Obama because he didn’t really like him. They suggested that his speech would serve to subtly undermine the president, or at best be a half-hearted endorsement that wouldn’t move the needle much.
Bill Clinton didn’t just move the needle. He buried it.
Where to start? Um, wow. The Big Dog spoke for 48 minutes and it seemed like 15. And this wasn’t just a speech filled with lofty ideas or platitudes. He mentioned policy. He mentioned details. He got all wonky up in there. One of the biggest applause lines of the night was for the word “Arithmetic.” Arithmetic!
Here is how good Bill Clinton is when he really wants to accomplish something. Bill Clinton mentioned a good thing that George W. Bush did, and the audience cheered. A highly-partisan crowd of die-hard Democrats in town to nominate their president for a second term, four years removed from the president most in that crowd consider the worst of all time, cheered for the humanitarian support by George W. Bush because Bill Clinton vouched for him.
(I’ve spoken before to friends about this aspect of Bush’s presidency which I truly admire. His support for PEPFAR is important and should be credited.)
Part of Clinton’s reason for mentioning Bush in a positive light was to illustrate the differences between Republicans and Democrats in how they treat members of the opposing party. As Clinton said, “I never learned to hate the other side like they have learned to hate this president.” Clinton was able to say that, while Obama can’t because it would sound defensive. Of course the hilarious irony of this mention is that George W. Bush was mentioned almost as often at the DNC as he was at the RNC, and got more applause at the DNC.
I could go on and on about Clinton’s speech. What I love about Clinton is his willingness to assume the best of his audience, in terms of their ability to understand complex issues. Most politicians stick to talking points and platitudes in their speeches because all the media experts and consultants tell them that people aren’t really informed on the issues. While most politicians hear that and keep their speeches light, Clinton thinks that if people aren’t informed, then part of his job is to explain the issue so that they can understand his argument. Clinton trusts his audience to be smart enough to understand, and his audience realizes that, and loves him for it.
Run this guy in a presidential election right now and he gets 350 electoral votes, easy.
Now the stage is set for the president to make his case tonight. He has a tough job ahead, not just because of the state of the economy, but because the last two nights have been amazing, emotional, and anchored by phenomenal speeches. I’ve seen at least six speeches already at the DNC that were better than every single speech at the RNC, but that will matter less if the president doesn’t deliver tonight.
And again, don’t get complacent. A good speech by Clinton last night and a good speech by Obama tonight will not win this election. This election will be won by people going door-to-door to get people to the polls, by calling people on the phone, and by volunteering to watch polls on election day. We need to win this thing, and it’s going to take hard work, not just cheering on some speeches.