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|More thoughts on the Democratic Convention|
Aug. 29th, 2008 at 12:25 am
I promised more on the Democratic convention. Here it is:
Bill Clinton’s speech was great fun. I’ve seen him be more passionate than he was during his endorsement of Obama, but that’s just a nitpick. When he discussed politics during the second part of his speech, Clinton was riveting. It’s obvious why Clinton wanted to talk about the economy instead of foreign policy, as the Obama organization suggested he should: Nobody can talk about the concrete details of economic policy with the passion and clarity of Bill Clinton. It was almost as good as his 2004 speech.
Biden’s speech was everything that a VP’s speech needs to be. Some in the mainstream media responded to it with a yawn, but that lacks perspective. I challenge anyone to come up with a memorable moment from a VP address at a convention besides the standard criticism of Dan Quayle’s 1988 performance. As a speech, it erred on the discursive side, but not to any degree that was detrimental. The bottom line: Biden was good enough, and perhaps more than that; he was credible in his policy expositions and relentless in his attacks of McCain.
The Obama video was fine. The “we’re a normal family” theme is wearing a bit thin for people who have watched all week. Even so, many undecided voters tuning-in tonight are watching the convention for the first time. Maybe I’m glorifying the good ‘ol days, but I think that Bill Clinton’s “Man from Hope” video in 1992 was far better.
Obama’s speech is complicated to analyze. There are three target markets for this speech:
Obama hit a home run with the diehard Democrats. This is what they love about Obama. His base will attack the numerous mundane tasks required to win an election with fervor and energy. And most importantly, they’ll show up to vote.
Obama’s speech will shore up the Republican base’s support of McCain. To them, Obama’s success is surreal, and his celebrity status gets under their skin. This speech played all that up, and the base was hoping that Obama was going to take things too far with his Greek temple thing. But everything seemed to come together, and they’re left as resolved to defeat him as they ever were to defeat Hillary. Obama’s said things like, “When you don’t have a record to run on, you paint your opponent as somebody to run from.” When McCain supporters hear this, they immediately think of using it against Obama himself.
For undecided voters, this speech needed to be a fairly standard speech by a Democratic politician. And it was.
Obama’s stated his policy intentions quite well. It was still more general than I like to see, but it was effective nonetheless. Nothing surprising at all, but that’s as it should be; conventions shouldn’t shock their viewers. I think that the biggest weakness of the speech was the laundry list of policy initiatives. This is old politics, and it belied his efforts to focus on his new ways of doing things. He also did little to tackle fears that he doesn’t have the experience.
Obama’s case against McCain is durable and tough enough to give him fuel for the rest of the election cycle. The Greek temple thing, which seemed stupid to me at the outset, ended up coming off fine, and Obama pulled off his final convention night without making it seem over the top. This is just as well for the undecided voters, since they’re not going to be drawn in by the celebrity or glamour aspects of Obama’s candidacy.
The music at the end, however, was pretty weird. Was that from the recent movie Dark Knight?
My final word on his speech: It was a good speech with a fantastic delivery, but he could have done more to appeal to the undecided voters in the center.
My final word of this convention: It was historic because Obama is black. It was fun viewing, because the participants did a fine job. I don’t agree with the message or the policies advocated, but there’s no denying that it was pretty good politics.