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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

[This post is all about political theatre, so if you're not interested in that, please skip.)

I thought Michelle Obama hit the ball out of Pepsi Stadium. It was fun to listen to the memes being slung around. One of the jobs the Democratic convention has is to "normalize" Barack Obama, whom the Republicans are trying to paint as a weirdo elitist. Michelle Obama was there to say: my husband is a great guy, you'd like him, I love him, we have happy kids:
And you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that even though he had this funny name, even though he'd grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine. He was raised by grandparents who were working class folks just like my parents, and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. Like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities they never had themselves. And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.
Michele Obama came across as the TV version of the mom you'd like to have: articulate but nervous in front of crowds, very concerned about her parents and her kids, wants good things for her family and everybody else's family. Familiar but compelling and appealing. So the math works out to: if she thinks Barack Obama is just like her, maybe he's just like everybody else.

You're going to hear a lot of the "funny name" meme during the convention, I suspect. The idea is to inoculate voters by saying, yeah, it's a funny name but that's all it is, he's American. I wouldn't be surprised if we hear more of the "and that's why I love America" meme, too, because why let the Republicans own patriotism?

It was interesting how middle-of-the-road Michelle Obama's speech was. Was there even 20% Democratic content? If the Democratic Party was ever about entitlements for minority groups, her speech was about a level playing field: "America is a place where you can make it if you try." (Emphasis mine.) Nobody gets a handout; they get a hand up.

Obviously I'm partisan and one of the things I've learned about politics is that everyone filters what they see according to what they already feel. Democrats will love her speech and feel she has Oprah-esque star quality. Republicans will see her as an insincere elitist desperately trying to hide her special pleading under gobs of smarm. I suspect the speech went down well with independents, though, which is the point of all the hoopla.

I am not sure how well Cindy McCain is going to stack up against Michelle Obama. She's had a lot of work to the point where it shows. Michelle Obama's mother worked to put Michelle through college; Cindy McCain's dad left her a beer distribution corporation. I'm sure Cindy McCain can give a superb speech; but can she project the warmth that Michelle Obama did?

I'll also be interested in seeing what the McCains do about their kids. One of their kids, Bridget, is Bangladeshi. Cindy McCain talks about adopting her; but the campaign has kept her carefully out of sight, I have to assume because they think having a dark-skinned daughter will hurt him with racists. (Bush's 2000 campaign successfully slimed McCain by claiming he was the father of an illegitimate black child during the South Carolina primary.) I hope they bring out all their kids, and I think it would show he has a heart. But I wouldn't bet a lot of money on it. On the other hand they can't very well bring out the three white kids and not Bridget. Watch the Republican convention to see who Cindy brings onstage.

Next up: Hillary's night. I'm betting she gives a barn-burner of a speech.



Speaking from the UK where the political issues are maybe less pertinent, I agree that Michelle got it spot on. But no 'ordinary mom' has teeth like that!

By Blogger blogward, at 3:50 AM  

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