Convention Thoughts -- Day One (Warm And Fuzzy)

[ Posted Thursday, August 28th, 2008 – 11:15 UTC ]

On second thought, maybe that should be "conventional thoughts." Hmm. Or "un-conventional thoughts" perhaps? Well, it's certainly not "conventional wisdom," no matter how you define the term.


Overdosing on convention coverage has meant the normal and clocklike schedule of posts here has been knocked somewhat awry. I apologize for that, but as an excuse I have to say that I don't have any overarching Big Idea things to say about the Democratic National Convention, just a bunch of somewhat-disjointed thoughts. So I guess I'd better revert to three-dot journalism to do them whatever justice they deserve...


Day 1

Day one had me a little worried, I must admit. The enthusiasm levels seemed a bit muted, there wasn't a lot of red meat, and the whole thing seemed an exercise in warm fuzzies.

But then, I realized later, that's exactly what it was supposed to be. This convention has been produced by masters of the art, and in order to do a "build" during the whole week, it was necessary to start out very low-key. But I must admit, on that first day, it looked so low-key I thought for a minute I was back in 2004 watching the Kerry convention (more about Kerry later on).

A few generalities first. Political conventions are fun to watch because you get a good mix of people who are polished and accomplished speakers -- because they are professional politicians who give a great speech when called upon (think: Bill Clinton). And then there are people who have never spoken publicly to a group of more than 15 people -- who are quite obviously terrified.

Of course, there's a flip side to that coin as well. There are people who are the highest Democratic officeholders of the land -- and yet would put people to sleep when telling them the building is on fire (think: Harry Reid). And there are also average Americans from humble stations in life that are "naturals" -- and give speeches that blow away many of the people who make speeches for a living.

It's a mixed bag, and it's a lot of fun to watch, I have to admit. OK, onward to specific impressions I got from Day 1...


...I must admit, I didn't catch Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's speech. Now, Nancy is capable of breathing fire and hitting her oratorical marks perfectly, but she's inconsistent. She either gives a great speech or a snoozer. Sometimes hearing her speak is like listening to a particularly boring Algebra lecture... by a teacher with a monotone drone... in May... when it's hot... and the school has no air conditioning... zzzzz... Oh, I'm sorry, I just put myself to sleep writing that. Ahem. I read the text of her remarks later, and it sure sounded like a good speech to me. But I have to go with the evidence of everyone who saw it and reported on it, and said she blew it. Oh, well, it was early in the day and not many people were watching on television, one hopes...


...I did catch Jesse Jackson, Junior, and that was much more like it. Listening to him speak reminds me of a younger version of his father -- not so much in what he's saying, but in that cadence and speaking style which is his father's signature as an orator. Close your eyes listening to the son, and you can hear his father speaking 25 years ago. The speech itself was pretty good, with obligatory Martin Luther King, Junior references. I especially liked his "mountaintop" imagery, about (I'm paraphrasing, don't have his text in front of me) how the Denver convention was aptly chosen for a convention on the 45th anniversary of the "I Have A Dream" speech because it was being held "in sight of a mountaintop." Anyway, very nice speech, very nicely given...


...Caroline Kennedy is one of a very few people who can give Barack Obama the gigantic and official J.F.K. seal of approval. And when she talks about it as what "my father" would think of Obama, you really realize who the "royal family" of the Democrats is... and they don't come from Arkansas...


...Teddy's appearance didn't leave a dry eye in the house. Many are assuming this is going to be the last convention he attends, and the Democrats certainly rose to the occasion. Ted Kennedy gave a wonderful speech, reminding everyone that he has been the champion for universal health care for decades in the Senate, on top of his many other achievements. Like I said, not a dry eye in the house for the "Lion of the Senate"...


...Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri is a real fireball, and should be watched because I see bigger roles for her in the future. She has been an ardent supporter of Obama, and one of the best of his "surrogates" on the gabfest news shows. She is forceful and intelligent in her defense of Obama, something many of the other surrogates haven't managed to do. If she winds up in Obama's cabinet, it wouldn't surprise me in the least...


...Michelle Obama's brother is about as non-threatening a black man as you can present to the "white blue-collar" voters in Appalachia (for instance). His story is a well-known one, since Hollywood has gone to this well many times: he's a successful basketball coach. His story of playing one-on-one with Barack was straight out of Central Casting, and it worked beautifully. He earned big points among liberals everywhere who use the line "I don't watch much television... well, maybe some PBS..." as a bragging point when he revealed that he and Michelle were limited to one hour of television per night. And the icing on this rhetorical cake was that she actually knew every episode of The Brady Bunch. You can't get much more non-threatening to nervous white voters than that. His job was to introduce his sister as "local girl done good," and he pulled this off spectacularly well. Even his speaking manner was great, as it evoked the coach in the locker room, talking earnestly to his team...


...Michelle Obama herself had a fantastic night. This was "warm and fuzzy day" and she topped it off perfectly. Her personal story of starting in low circumstance and working hard to get where she is today is straight from the pages of Horatio Alger, and Americans just love this sort of thing, because it feeds into our collective myth of who we are as a people. Her humanizing stories of her husband and family were exactly what was needed for Americans tuning into the election season for the first time (this may surprise some, but there are millions of such out there). She was saying, in many ways and many times, "We are like you, America. We have lived the American Dream, and we love this country." From some, it might have appeared saccharine and even fake, but Michelle was so down-to-earth and earnest that it worked like a charm. Especially after two weeks of Olympic television coverage which had at least one of theses stories per hour -- it was perfect timing...


...But the kids stole the show. The youngest one, obviously having a ball with her moment on the world stage, in about five seconds became the best thing of the entire night. Who could resist an adorable girl saying "I love you Daddy!" to her father?


[...Because I have been slacking off, we've got a lot to cover today. There will be multiple posts, so be sure to check back to see all of them...]


-- Chris Weigant


2 Comments on “Convention Thoughts -- Day One (Warm And Fuzzy)”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    Good recap, I look forward to reading about days two & three.

    I think you made a good point about how many potential voters are only just now starting to pay attention to the election. It may seem like old news to some of us but that one hour of prime time TV is essential to getting out the story of Sen. Obama and his family to the public.


  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Stan -

    Some pundit was quoted last night saying "the audience for day one of a convention is about five percent. Day two -- five percent. Day three -- five percent. Day four -- eighty-five percent."

    So tonight's the big one, in other words...

    Day two is now posted, I'm working on day three. Man, I've been lazy this week... I have to admit!!


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