The First Night

So after reading a few reactions to the Convention around the web, I want to offer up a few more thoughts. First of all, Ted Kennedy’s speech pretty clearly should have been rescheduled to go in the 10:00 hour. It’s always nice to show off the members of the opposite party who support you this year, and Jim Leach is a great guy, but he was overwhelmingly boring and made for really dull TV off the bat. The Kennedy tribute/speech, on the other hand, was downright moving. I choked up more than once, and the imagery for the networks would have been very powerful. You start with Caroline Kennedy, move on to rememberances of Jack and Bobby, and then Teddy “surprises” everyone with a moving, inspiring speech that serves to remind people that if they care about quality, available, healthcare, they have to vote for Democrats. And the shots that you could have gotten to any number of people being moved to tears in the audience would have been great TV.

As for Michelle, she was downright fantastic, and the Obama campaign finally found the note they always should have been striking; that these are two people from working class backgrounds who clawed their way to success. That they don’t just understand the American dream, they are the American dream. The Obamas really need to establish in peoples’ minds that, when you look at the Obamas and what they accomplished, you see validation of your own aspirations and your hopes for your kids. They need to make people want them to win and see themselves as being invested in Obama winning, because if Barack Obama can go from being the son of a single mother who bounced around all over the world to being the first black President, then they, and their kids, really can achieve whatever they want. That’s a very powerful narrative to have, and if you can establish it it’s almost unbeatable. After all, if you see someone as embodying your hopes and your dreams, how do you vote against them? And how exactly does John McCain find any way to attack that narrative, if it sets in?

As for attacks on McCain, yeah there could have been more, but given how well Michelle did I don’t think it matters, yet. The theme of the first night could be a positive building up of Obama, if Michelle nailed her speech, and she pretty clearly did that. On the other hand, if the whole convention looks like that (like, say, 2004), Democrats are going to look back and regret it. But I kind of expect that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, and maybe even Al Gore, will have some pointed “contrasts” to make with Republicans.