Barack Obama at the DNC

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

And it's official. Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee for president in 2012.

His speech tonight was described as "workmanlike" by a number of observers. And while it wasn't the soaring rhetoric that epitomized his 2008 campaign, I think it was pegged just right. He spoke directly to the American people - noting repeatedly that this election isn't about him, it's about all of us.

That's a framing that he used many times in 2008, but it seems all the more powerful now - now that we've seen what his presidency has actually meant to all of us.

Of course, the zinger of the night was this awesome line:

Now, our friends down in Tampa at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America. But they didn't have much to say about how they'd make it right. They want your vote, but they don't want you to know their plan. And that's because all they have to offer is the same prescriptions they've had for the last 30 years. Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high — try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning.

What were your highlights of the president's speech? Did you hear what you wanted to hear?

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    I heard some things I wanted to hear and some I didn't.

    Commentators have noted indirect reference to Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you ..." but don't seem to have picked up on the fact that "Government is not the solution to all our problems, but government is not the cause of all our problems" is a direct refutation of Reagan's "Government is not the solution to our problems, government IS the problem." I was glad to hear that.

    On the other hand, I was disappointed though not surprised to hear the president once again embrace Simpson-Bowles (and again speak of it as if the commission made recommendations, which it didn't, not achieving enough votes). That means I will be putting some of my energies to organizing against cuts to Medicare and Social Security between now and the lame duck period. I had hoped that Joe Biden's forthright statement that Obama-Biden would oppose any cuts to Medicare a couple of weeks ago was a change. Perhaps it still could be.

    Likewise I was disappointed though not surprised that the president included "corporations" among his list of unjustly scapegoated groups when it comes to understanding our problems. Sure there is over-simplistic analysis of that, but treating them as morally equivalent in the unjustness of the scapegoating isn't true; it belies both his claim that he would tell us the truth and his claim to be against the role of big money in politics.

    Also, I really winced when he kept saying "I'm offering you the harder road ... " as if the Republicans were offering an easy path. I think what was behind that may have been an idea like "I'm offering you a reality based road, while the Republican plans are a combination of fantasies, deceptive evasions and outright lies." But that's not how it came across. This piece of the message needs work.

    It was interesting that he didn't directly use the "we're all in this together" theme that was prominent Wednesday, though the "citizenship" theme was maybe a version of the same thing. I hope he / they work out a way to combine those two; I think they both have real potential.

    I was glad for the focus on re-expanding manufacturing and for the hat-tip to science on the climate debate.

    It is too bad that the president is so embattled. The focus on his re-election probably was right, but if it's a fact that he isn't in a position to run on more of a "give me a better Congress" line, that's too bad.

    Overall I came away more motivated than I was before, though I suppose most of my work will be locally / state oriented, and now, or at least until the Biden approach is more strongly embraced, with need to focus on saying "I'm supporting your opposition to Romney/Ryan safety net cuts and I don't want you to make any either" rather than having being able to work with a clearer contrast there.

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    One other more particular thing that I think probably wasn't intentional but may be something his message people need to look at:

    I get it about the need/desire to appeal to women and am glad the DP was and is standing up so strongly for women's rights.

    But as the father of a daughter, but also the uncle of two girls and three boys, it actually kind of bothered me that NONE of the abstract children mentioned in the speech (nor I think in Joe Biden's) were boys. There was a "young man in medical school." But K-middle school age boys need hope and ambition and prospects too, need to hear themselves represented as part of our hopes and pride and reasons for seeking a better world for the future, need to hear that they matter. Their parents need to hear it too -- perhaps especially their fathers?

    And the boys who fall on the wrong side of divisions that marginalize categories of people by income, education, occupation (class) and by race & ethnicity need to be acknowledged, along with their male elders, if the DP is to build a more secure longer term base.

    Raising up the importance of women and girls is not a zero sum project -- we are all in this together.

    As I said, I don't think this was intentional, but do think it was a bit of a miscue.

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    I liked and was very touched by Obama's speech. I do not understand those who yearn for the rhetoric of previous speeches.Every speech is different and has to fit the occasion. Obama was just right. I rank his speech and Michelle's as tops.


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