If presidential elections were only about giving great speeches – and arguably 2008 was – President Obama would be in a lot better shape. To the uncritical neutral observer Michelle Obama was as great as Ann Romney as a witness for hubby’s “likeability”; San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was as good as Marco Rubio in telling his family story; Bill Clinton burnished his credentials as the economic genius of the 90s – without any mention of his central role in deregulating the banks; and Barack explained that change is difficult and will actually take 8 years. Good speechwriters, and good presenters all. So, what is the confirmed cynic to think?
First, what was not discussed: the real 23 million under or unemployed; the $16 trillion in debt; the declining income and net worth of American families; the deliberate reduction in American influence in the world – Syria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Eastern Europe, Latin America; individual responsibility.
Second, who was not there: Hillary; the 65,000 “fans” who were to be bused in from all over the Mid-Atlantic states to fill the stadium for Obama’s speech; the many Congress members from Red states who do not want their names attached to the president; the many union leaders who didn’t like the non-union venue; any realistic presidential candidates for 2016 (if it is to be O’Malley, bring it on.)
Third, there is a lot of anger and victimhood in the Democratic base. It helped to watch the president of NARAL, the abortion-rights group, with the sound muted. The gestures and facial impressions could not have been more angry and threatening. (I was reminded of Dinesh D’Souza’s insight in 2016: Obama’s America that a key to Obama’s success was his likeability in contrast to the anger of prior African-American political leaders.) The strategy was quite clear – red meat for the base for most presentations, peace and harmony during the network prime time hour. The message for the smaller audience from speakers such as Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, and Elizabeth Warren is that the oppressed groups – women, African Americans, Hispanics – need the government to help them, and the evil Romney ticket wants, as Joe Biden put it, to “put them back in chains.”
And then there’s the “Forward” thing. A tribute to Jimmy Carter? A tribute to Teddy Kennedy, including an inconclusive clip from a debate with a youthful Mitt Romney? A slot for John Kerry? A headline speech by a president from the last century? All that was missing was a video riff of George W. Bush creating all of the problems that Barack has been so effectively overcoming.
Perhaps most importantly, a campaign can be about four things – the incumbent’s record (avoided); the villainy of the opponent (emphasized); plans for the future (none); and vision. As Erick Erickson has pointed out, the Democrats are victims of their media-supported delusion that the public wants what the left wing of the Democratic Party wants. Thus the opening video that we are all part of the government, the heavy focus on free abortion without limits, some mention of Obamacare, and the platform gaffes of removing God and downgrading support for Israel. In playing to the base within the auditorium, the Democrats moved far to the left and provided hours of Republican advertisement material for the real middle class – a mistake not made by the Republicans in Tampa.
And Obama’s final speech demeaning the Romney/Ryan lack of foreign policy experience – as if he had any in 2008 and it wasn’t Hillary who did all of that work. Between that and the Bill Clinton speech there must be quite a few voters disappointed that there isn’t a Clinton on the ballot.
This week’s video, perhaps already seen by many, is the fiasco of the Democratic Party’s dispute about whether the platform should include a reference to God and the status of Jerusalem. It is a good thing that the small attendance projection caused a rescheduling of Obama’s acceptance speech away from the lightning-prone Bank of America Stadium.