Dem Confab Half Over
My sister, a small-l libertarian, has been watching the conventions with me. She doesn’t like Obama’s economic policies, but she finds a lot of problems with McCain too (especially in how he handles his campaign, not just what he believes in). I wouldn’t call her cynical, but she clearly doesn’t hold high regard for our two parties.
Anyway, in between making fun of the delegates and some of the 3-minute speakers, my sister walked away from Day 1 very much impressed with Michelle Obama – saying the potential first lady’s speech was “very good… and not what I was expecting”. Given she heard a rumor Obama was a “registered Muslim”, I take that as a compliment for Michelle.
I said it had something to do with the tone of her speech – it felt very initimate, personal, and at times you could almost believe she was talking directly to you. It left people in the Pepsi Center in tears.
It could also be about this truism of the Obama family:
There’s no question that if you judge the candidates on their actual lives, rather than mythologies, the Obamas are extremely mainstream and conservative. Married for life, great parents, very humble beginnings, driven meritocrats. No divorce or adultery – and regular religious attendance and faith. And yet they are tagged as elitists and radicals. Yes, they’re liberals in policy, although not radically so. But they’re conservatives in their lives.
One of the right-wing talking points in response to her speech got me thinking, as well. As Andrew Sullivan put it:
I think what Jonah means is that it’s ok to be part of a nepotistic, moneyed elite but not ok if you work your way up from food stamps to editor of the Harvard Law Review. Now that kind of effort is what today’s conservatives really feel contempt for.
That seems right – it’s perfectly all right to conservatives to have inherited your money from a corrupt and convicted mobster; it’s all right to marry into money; it’s all right to use your money to make money, and to buy so many homes you can’t keep track of them all, even when you buy a condo on a whim; yet, anyone who works hard, plays by the rules, and makes money only after getting millions to buy their books, well, that’s something to sneer at, and deride as a “celebrity” and an “elitist”.
This whole attitude reflects the modern day moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the conservative movement in general and the Republican Party in particular. The best part of conservatism was its optimistic embrace of American ingenuity and “you-can-make-it-if-you-try” individualism. Yet, none of that is alive in today’s conservatives. They are so stuck in defending a war that never should have been waged, and so stuck in defending their tax breaks for the wealthy and the corporations who are abandoning their own citizenship for tax reasons, that they’ve lost all sense of connection to the best elements of our human nature, and the very best of American history and the promise our country holds for each generation.
Day 2’s speakers were much more hit or miss. Kucinich and Swieitzer (sp?) lit up the crowd. The Montana governor was especially funny and engaging. Governor Warner spoke movingly about innovation and the future, but I could see why some were disappointed. Fortunately, Hillary Clinton blew the roof off the convention center with her sign-off speech for the night. My sister missed much of that (all though we both shared a laugh over Swietzer’s “petro-dictator” line). Clinton did more to link her cause with Obama’s than she had in the past, although she could have done better to show her connection to Obama and/or his qualification to lead.
Day 2 was much better at drawing distinctions between the parties, but the common thread among the speeches of “more of the same” and “the change we need” was getting tiresome after a while.
All in all, though, I think the Dems are showing the right balance between an optimism about the country and disdain for the wreckage the Republicans are leaving in their wake.