Democratic Conventions

I found Michelle Obama’s speech very interesting to watch. She’s an icon to professional women, and a fine speaker, obviously, and so beautiful. Her messages are reassuring, reasserting values and good, decent, community-building citizenship, telling stories to remind everyone how what Obama has achieved is based on his “down-home-and-real” deep-seated beliefs. All good.

But seeing her performance (and it is classic prime-time TV) brings home what it means to have to “do rhetoric” to be elected, because it includes applying a thick veneer of perfect public protective polish on top of stories engineered and strung together to pull heartstrings. That will in fact make you go ah! or ugh!, depending on whether you are actually ready to have your heartstrings pulled and to surf in on party patriotism, or not. Me, I sit here dourly scratching my head and think: Do they really have to pile all that on? Do they really have to play the “conventional” card?

Maybe, yes.
But then again, maybe no.

After all, there’s Bill Clinton. Unconventional, passionate, wild, real Bill. Rules of rhetoric? of course. Populist? always. Clichés? no. Going through Republican arguments point by point, and defusing them. And then zooming in to focus on Obama’s continued commitment to bipartisan politics (a key element in his politics from the start):

“He also tried to work with Congressional Republicans on Health Care, debt reduction, and jobs, but that didn’t work out so well. Probably because, as the Senate Republican leader, in a remarkable moment of candor, said two years before the election, their number one priority was not to put America back to work, but to put President Obama out of work.
Senator, I hate to break it to you, but we’re going to keep President Obama on the job!”

And the best part is how he builds on his own work to say that we need cooperation:

Through my foundation, in America and around the world, I work with Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are focused on solving problems and seizing opportunities, not fighting each other.
When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics, but in the real world, cooperation works better.
What works in the real world, is cooperation!

Not only does Bill Clinton still love politics, he still makes politics fun, because he’s got real, muscular, scrappy values. Yeah! Whoop! Come on, damn the veneer, let’s get down and be political!

Text of Bill Clinton’s Address to the Democratic Convention, September 5, 2012, WSJ Washington Wire

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Anne

Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

6 thoughts on “Democratic Conventions”

  1. But i don’t “quite” get it.
    Is it pro or anti?
    Is it saying that Mitt is a salami?
    Am i missing something cultural (American?English)?

  2. Oh, Chris, now that’s fascinating! So to you it’s not clearly anti? Making him look very foolish? Being exceedingly disrespectful of a public personality, yet doing it in a playful, indirect, non-aggressive way?
    You Brits do nonsense, too, and wonderfully, but perhaps this type of making foolish “dumb things down” fun of politicians is indeed American.

  3. Well… my first reaction was – this is “taking the piss” and i heard it on a fairly left French radio programme.
    But then it doesn’t ACTUALLy say anything negative and i started to worry it was clever viral marketing in a pro way – ‘cos we get the here the man’s name a LOT.
    Remember i grew up with the Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen, Fascist regime – no misunderstanding there.

  4. How funny to think that smart people dumbing down might be the standard American version of subtlety.
    Here’s another funny one!

    But Chris, have you seen this?

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