Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

LIVE from Denver: Obama was phenomenal

I'm not sure I can find words that truly describe the power of Barack Obama's acceptance speech tonight. After talking to family, friends, and watching some of the talking heads on television, I guess I'll start with phenomenal.

Obama Speaks

I won't say perfect, because there were a few things in there I didn't like. Specifically, the rhetoric on taxes (the right wing framing on this issue, which much of the party's leadership has accepted, has to go), clean coal (an oxymoron if there ever was one) and nuclear power (if we could make it safe, why haven't we done it already? And what do we do with the toxic waste?)

But those quibbles are ultimately insignificant - it was a groundbreaking speech.

For the first time in recent history, the Democratic Party's presidential nominee stood firmly behind the progressive values that the United States of America has long cherished but at times forgotten.

Obama explained, in a concise and concrete way, that empathy is the underlying foundation of America's promise and its spirit:
This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong.

Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.
Obama reminded the nation that when we support and care for each other, we can do amazing things. We can meet challenges that seem difficult or impossible.

That is what progressives believe. It's the American way.

He didn't just define what progressives stand for, however. Obama dismantled the right wing's general framing on economic security with precision, ease, and force:
Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know.

Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans?

How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure.

It's time for us to change America.
This is the kind of tough eloquence we at NPI have been wanting to hear for a long time. Finally, a Democratic leader has made the most of an opportunity to tell the American people in no uncertain terms that the right wing agenda is a failure. That we as a country are better than this.

It was beautifully done. The setup, the baiting of McCain, and the interlaced answers providing a biting progressive response.

Accepting George Lakoff's advice, Obama also talked about mutual responsibility... being our brother's keeper, and our sister's keeper. Being accountable to each other. Working towards a "common purpose" for the common good. Building a common wealth that will provide broad prosperity and opportunity for all.

A few weeks ago, we were concerned that Obama wasn't hitting back hard enough against John McCain. Winning an election means taking the fight to your opponent, and Barack was allowing John McCain to spend way too much time on offense.

Tonight, Obama was in fighting form, repeatedly going after McCain and mocking his love affair with the policies of George W. Bush. Yet he did not sound desperate, angry, or mean. Instead, he came across as smart, pragmatic, and dignified.

Even the cable television pundits were falling all over each other to praise the speech. Chris Matthews couldn't stop talking about how great it was. Pat Buchanan spoke of it as the best convention speech ever. Even much of the Fox Noise crew had to grudgingly admit that it was good.

What's more, the McCain response was dismissed as silly and ridiculous.

Barack Obama hit a grand slam with his speech. The Republicans will try to steal the spotlight tomorrow with the unveiling of McCain's running mate, but nobody who watched this speech is going to forget about it anytime soon.


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