President Obama had a high bar set for his speech at the Democratic National Convention last week. Rousing speakers at both the RNC and DNC had given the public their fill of oratory over the last two weeks, and after Bill Clinton’s excellent speech (even Republicans across the aisle gave begrudging respect to Clinton’s commanding presence), Americans were expecting President Obama to come out strong.
Pundits were calling it one of the most important speeches he’d have to give. While that may have been an exaggeration, President Obama’s speech was still a pivotal event in the campaign dialogue and his bid for re-election.
The speech carried with it both the motivational prose that made the President famous four years earlier while also carrying the weight of having seen the country through four difficult years. Obama’s speech was that of a sitting president at a convention. Much like his predecessors, (especially Reagan), the shift in tone was reflective of a man who knows what has been accomplished, but realizes that much remains incomplete.
As he laid forth plans for bringing back jobs lost in the recession, such as encouraging growth of the manufacturing base and his plan to provide a million new jobs in the sector, he empathized with those he interacted with who were suffering. The speech was a poignant reflection of the challenges we have all faced over the last four years.
Obama’s speech was a capstone to an exceptional convention. As he laid out his goals going forward, he inspired a base which had been unified by speeches earlier in the week from Michelle Obama and President Clinton. This was his once more into the breach, his Charge of the Light Brigade speech. It provided a banner for the base to rally around going into the final stretch of the election. This was the critical difference in the RNC and DNC.
While the RNC served as a last ditch attempt to unify the base, with much of the rhetoric being anti-Obama, the DNC took a unified base and molded it into an effective force to project the vision and hopes President Obama has going forward for America. The key difference is that the DNC wasn’t focused around being anti-Romney, it was about being pro-America.
The DNC worked on almost every level. It avoided any major negative pitfalls (I’m looking at you Clint Eastwood), while rallying the base and providing a cohesive message for the few undecided who still watch the political conventions. This convention isn’t going to be a game changer though. The ability of a political convention to make or break a campaign has been greatly diminished in the 21st century. What the convention did was make sure that for the next 60 days, while Republicans attempt to rally the stagnant base in critical states, the Democrats can focus entirely on the ground game and debates which will shape the election going forward.
I could cheer about how I think the DNC was superior (a partly objective assessment, to be sure), but instead I choose to focus on moving forward with helping the President improve America in our cities and towns.