DNC Day 3: Barack Obama Hopes He Hasn't Lost You Yet:
All the things that rise must land somewhere or they disappear into the ether. In 2008, Barack Obama was one with air and with fire. In 2012, he has changed his elemental identification. In 2012, at last night's Democratic National Convention, he spoke to us as a man very much of the earth, less like a deflated balloon and more like a man who leaped from a plane and has realized, once he hits the ground, that the rush is over and it's time to pack the chute.
There's a ton of shit we could heave at President Obama's nomination acceptance speech. Yes, it was light on specifics plans, with some of the ideas for his second term buried deeply in anecdotes or rhetoric that it was hard to suss them out. No, it didn't go nearly far enough in laying blame at the feet of the Republicans and didn't call at all for more Democrats to be elected to Congress. No, it didn't have much of a real vision for goals beyond "We need to keep fixing what was broken." Finally, no, it wasn't as good a speech as Michelle Obama or Bill Clinton delivered.
But let's put aside what the speech didn't do. We can't dwell in the realm of fantasy, of revisions of the past. We're not Republicans (unless you are, in which case let the Rude Pundit say, "The fuck's wrong with you?"). We need to deal with what actually was said, presence instead of absence.
President Obama made the case for his reelection by picking up on one of the most important themes of the convention, that we're all in this together, so why the fuck don't we stop being selfish pricks and start acting like we're interdependent. "[We] believe in something called 'citizenship,'" Obama said, "a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations." After listing various ways in which today's accomplishments not only owe those who came before but need to be building blocks to those who come after, he continued, he continued, "Because -- because America, we understand that this democracy is ours. We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense. As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That's what we believe."
It's not pithy and it's not all that lofty. It's laying out a stark contrast between visions, between the GOP's America, where everything is done so that the individual can succeed above all, that Ayn Rand bullshit that's only for rich dicks, and the Democrats' America, where society's must constantly progress and built towards, if you will, a more perfect Union. (Caveat: this is all in the realm of theory, of course.)
In some ways, this Obama was a chastened man coming back to the people he abandoned to ask for another chance. One of the Rude Pundit's biggest complaints about the President has been that he did nothing with the energy that accompanied his election. He said he would ask for our help, but he never did, and instead we wandered off. Some believed the whole "I got this" myth, but what that did was disengage and distance us. This was equal with his failure to understand the depth of Republican hatred for him. So, like the star basketball player realizing that he needs to rely on his team to win championships, he came back to us last night and said, perhaps a little too calculatedly humble, "So you see, the election four years ago wasn't about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the change." But more importantly, "If you turn away now -- if you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn't possible, well, change will not happen."
This shit is hard, our President told us, harder than he ever imagined. He more or less dismissed the entire Republican platform as unworthy of discussion by adults in a nation with genuine problems, and that it is instead the wish list of deranged plutocratic children. Indeed, what he was trying to convince us with all of his talk of the "choice" was that it was not between him and Romney. It was between him and apathy because, and every so-called pundit everywhere knows this, if the energy of the electorate is within spitting distance of 2008, Romney is finished. Romney wins only through apathy and outright voter suppression. "Yes, our path is harder," he said, knowing that things got worse before they started to get better, "but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don't turn back." And by saying that, Obama meant that there really is no choice. It was a serious speech by a sober man with his eyes open to the reality of what he faces, whether it's his diminished glow or the treasonous intransigence of his opposition.
This is the road we're on. He wants us to join him in continuing down it. Hope and change are still possible in this world. We've started to tilt in that direction. He put out his hand last night and asked us for ours to join him. He's learned hard lessons, just like all of us. He asked for us not to lose faith, that fickle partner of hope, in himself or in one another.