For the past year, the extended and inexorable internecine battles in both political parties served to nurture a narrative of an America puzzled, neutered, and weakened, an America bowed before a new form of war with venomous tentacles too complex to defeat and inherent racial discord too endemic to excise.
While this purported decay in our national soul was the stuff of daily Twitter rampages on the Republican side, the strident outrage of the Democratic left against the moneyed establishment – however justified – served to further blemish our national self-image.
Last night, in one of the most galvanizing speeches in the history of our nation, Barack Obama lifted the fog of partisan warfare and presented a clear picture of the United States of American as it exists in 2016. Using a rhetorical device that has been woefully untapped this campaign cycle – facts – Obama lanced the boil of fear, negativity, and hatred that festered in Cleveland and swelled to a toxic climax in Jabba the Trump’s infamous “Believe Me” speech last Thursday night.
By the time the President of the United States concluded last night, the American people were reminded that they are not a nation of cop haters or race-baiters, not a nation of smoldering dissenters and bitter resenters, not a nation whose dreams have fallen so far that we are ready to abandon who we are.
Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States -- a man who has endured Republican challenges to his legitimacy as President and even as a citizen, a man whose foes have questioned his faith, a man whose very motivations, patriotism, and loyalty to the United States has been questioned by Donald Trump -- stood up last night, proud and tall, and insisted that we rise and heed the better angels of our nature.
It was an image for the ages: the still youthful and idealistic African American man meticulously documenting and enthusiastically championing the reasons for his faith in the goodness of America, in the wake of an over-privileged, under-researched, bloviating rich guy shooting from the hip about his perception of its failures, fears, and weaknesses.
Obama closed not with a mere endorsement of Hillary Clinton, but with an urgent appeal that his fellow citizens “reject cynicism and fear,” and “show the world that we still believe in the promise of this great nation.” Hillary joined Obama on stage at 11:45 last night in a profoundly symbolic promise of continuity, closing a breathtaking evening in the history of the United States of America.
Barack Obama was clearly the most luminous star of the evening, but he was not the only citizen on the podium to make a profound impact.
Until last night, both parties -- in virtually every single speech, video, and gesture – had been relentlessly focused on their core constituencies. Both had felt that the most crucial role of the conventions was to ensure that their parties were united and energized to vote.
But last night -- in a moment rare if not unprecedented – an independent citizen directed his remarks precisely at the “undecided voters” in the television viewing audience. Michael Bloomberg proceeded to deliver one of the most scathing indictments of a major party nominee for president in modern history. Bloomberg’s unique bio gives him extraordinary credibility. By any measure, he is a more successful businessman than Donald Trump; Bloomberg is also a highly regarded three-term mayor of New York, and had been widely encouraged to mount his own third-party run for the Presidency.
Michael Bloomberg ripped into Donald Trump like the velociraptor that gutted Wayne Knight’s entrails in Jurassic Park. “I’m from New York,” he said. “I know a con man when I see one.” He would further observe that “the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.” How explained his presence as an independent at a partisan event: “We must unite behind the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue.” And then there was the closer: “Donald Trump is a risky, reckless, and radical choice” that America “cannot afford” to make.
As Bloomberg stared evenly into the camera, you could sense a certain level of awe in the arena, as if the more genteel white-wine spritzer and Lily Pulitzer liberals had accidentally wandered out to the barn and witnessed their first castration. Earlier, a group of Broadway stars had turned out for an over-the-top reversion to wimpy, self-involved liberal preening, singing “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love,” as if the battle for our national soul could be solved by opening up more Hamilton tickets. Bloomberg’s speech slammed the audience back in their seats and raised the gravitas meter to where it should be: looming crisis.
Make no mistake, the crowd loved Bloomberg, but it seemed like people were looking around the arena to see if the “niceness police” were going to appear, or wondering if some tv network censor was going to bleep Bloomberg for excessively nasty pejoratives. But Mike Bloomberg takes no second seat in the “tell it like it is” billionaires club. Long before Michael Bloomberg was mayor, he made billions more than Trump by delivering the fastest, most comprehensive financial news on Wall Street, and Mike sure as hell doesn’t need an invitation from Donald Trump to eschew political correctness.
Tim Kaine, newly anointed VP candidate, settled any issue about whether he had been the right pick. It is true that Tim Kaine appears to have all the attack dog potential of an adorably fluffy and sad-eyed mini-schnauzer, but he flung himself into the task in a manner that was effective for him. Here at BTRTN, we were pleased to see Kaine pick up on the exact same point we made in our write-up of Trump’s acceptance speech: that Trump constantly uses the phrase “believe me” to paper over his woeful lack of policy substance and rare deviation into accuracy.
It can be tough to be Joe Biden. He is such a big-hearted character, such an emotional bear-hug kinda guy. But somewhere along the way life decided that Joe was the Katherine Heigl character in Twenty Seven Dresses, a permanent bridesmaid in the wedding photos of history. And so again last night, Joe gave a wow of a speech: the public hug of a brother to Barack Obama, the sternest of warnings about the Trump Tower of Babble, and the apocalyptic need to unite behind Hillary Clinton. But dammit, it happened again! Followed to the podium by Bloomberg, Kaine, and Obama, Biden must have spent the after-party like the guy clutching the Oscar for Best Short Documentary Adapted for the Screen in a Foreign Language.
Much has been written about the fact that the political party that convened in Cleveland last week – let’s call them the TrumppublicandscrewBushKasichCruz Party – found unity in one and only one thing: a universal and borderline psychotic hatred for Hillary Clinton.
This week in Philadelphia, we’ve seen a Democratic party that has rifts, schisms, and passions, but that has clearly articulated hyoooooge areas of policy alignment and philosophical harmony.
But make no mistake: for all the hard-won Kumbaya on platform planks and all the espousal of fundamental party philosophy, Donald Trump is serving the exact same function in the Democratic Party that Hillary Clinton provides to Republicans. For whatever else they may or may not agree on, there is a galvanizing, growing realization that Donald Trump represents a force of evil and potential carnage to the United States of America that is becoming too frightening to contemplate.
Last night, the Democratic Party put together an astonishingly cohesive and comprehensive argument for why the election of Donald Trump would be devastating to the principles, reputation, and very democracy of the United States of America.
Thank you, Michael Bloomberg, for having the insight and the balls to call Trump a scam artist on national television. In a long career of principled service, this was one of your finest moments.
Tim Kaine, you are onto a key vulnerability in the Trump Reality Game Show: keep pointing out that every time he says “believe me,” it means, “I have no factual basis for the lie I just told.”
Barack Obama, thank you for your dignity and your grace, your uplifting smile and your radiant optimism. Thank you for leading our country through a brutally challenging period and delivering us at the end of your watch a stronger, healthier, and more vibrant nation than the one you inherited. Thank you for serving as our conscience through a period when new technologies, new enemies, and new vulnerabilities rendered historical precedent an incomplete guide.
Last night, Barack Obama delivered a forceful, comprehensive, and decidedly positive alternative view of reality to that which Donald Trump put forth in Cleveland. Obama’s clarity, certainty, and optimism were informed by ideals and faith, to be sure. But in the end, he asked us to decide whether we should evaluate our world through Donald Trump’s opinions, or through the imposing standards of those tenacious, unforgiving, and often inconvenient things we call facts.
Perhaps knowing that this would be his last shot at truly global audience; certainly knowing how much was on the line, Obama made clear that there was only one choice for carrying his world view forward.
With Hillary Clinton, we can take Barack to the Future.
Great analysis and synthesis. I have said for 7 years that Barack Obama will be known as one of the greatest American Presidents. Thank you, SteveReplyDelete