Monday, September 01, 2008

The Speech That Wasn't, And the One That Might Be

For SWNID, the Dem-vention was like a dinnertime rerun of a 1990s sitcom: the dreary, endless reiteration of a single theme that once was thought to have traction with the public, punctuated with the conditioned response of approval from a preprogrammed audience. So, as Friends seems endlessly to pound the notion that fornication is hilarious, so the party of Jefferson endlessly pounds the notion that Americans are fundamentally miserable thanks to Republican wickedness.

Most disappointing to us is that the party's historic nominee passed up the opportunity in his well-staged acceptance speech to sound the higher themes of which his candidacy is an obvious indicator. Obama's acceptance speech could've been more like his speech in Philly, delivered in response to the Jeremiah Wright controversy, that articulated superbly the issue of race in our Republic. Instead, it was Democratic Party War Room Boilerplate, of the same variety as delivered by Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry.

Michael Gerson of the Boston Globe, no friend of Republicans, shares SWNIDish disappointment:

By the last firework of the Democratic convention, Obama’s transformation was complete. He had systemically taken the advice of every cynical, hard-edged Democratic political consultant. Get rid of the airy, cerebral rhetoric. Pitch your message to the focus groups, not the historians. Go for the old man’s jugular.

In the process, opportunities were lost. Obama said nothing interesting about race in America, at a moment when that might have been expected. He made no serious outreach to religious conservatives, something that now seems more like a ploy than a project. He offered no creative policy proposals that might transcend partisan divisions. In fact, his message ran with perfect smoothness along old partisan grooves. That is genuinely disappointing. A Democrat who wins in this fashion will be unable to rein in the inevitable excesses of the Democratic Congress. And the inevitable counter-reaction of Republicans will leave Washington, once again, a World War I battlefield of trenches and grudges.

The Dems have managed only once to win with this playbook and without an incumbent to run it, in 2000. Then they had a charismatic politician atop the ticket and an unpopular Republican to run against. This year they probably have the former but only have the latter as a surrogate. Do we then understand why the Dems' main ploy is endlessly to repeat "four more years of Bush"?

And are others disappointed that this is the best a popular, well-funded political party can do?

So what will John McCain, clearly no great orator, do with his upcoming opportunity? SWNID urges that he thoroughly acknowledge that Obama's nomination is historic and must provide a turning point for racial reconciliation in the United States. He must acknowledge the brokenness of his party's governance, most especially in the failure to restrain federal spending. And so he must pledge principled devotion to the Republic's ideals, its vigor and prosperity, thoroughly informed not by the rhetoric of class warfare and isolationism but by our experience that free markets make people prosperous and militarily strong democracies advance liberty.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And yet, we still call it The "United" States. This is a sad us-and-them country, guilty of blind devotion on both sides.