Tuned In

The Morning After: The Candidate of Change, Changed

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“I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed and so have I.

“I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the President.”

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama campaigned at the Democratic National Convention on hope and change. In 2012, the change was that he could no longer just campaign on hope.

So the speech that the President gave in re-accepting his nomination was, at least until its end, less soaring and more subdued; less poetic and more prosaic. There was less music, more liner notes. (He also gave the speech indoors, not in a stadium—because of the pouring rain this week in Charlotte, but the shift in venue also seemed to fit the shift in tone, from brass trumpets to brass tacks.) There were just a few jokes; no one said anything to a chair.

It was a speech for a President, in other words, with the constraints of the office: who needed, in still-tough times, to make a specific case why they could have been tougher, what he wants to do going forward and how it beats the alternative. (No accident he used the term “choice” constantly; Obama needs the election to be seen as a choice between his vision and Mitt Romney’s, not an up-and-down vote on his performance.)

So there was a theme built through the night—especially in Joe Biden’s introductory speech—of a President making tough choices, sometimes unpopular at the time, for the right reasons. Two choices in particular: the night, largely, was brought to you by General Motors and the ghost of Osama Bin Laden. There were arguments about tax fairness and the influence of money in politics. (“If you’re sick of hearing me ‘approve this message,’ believe me, so am I.”) And philosophically, there was an overarching idea: the belief in “citizenship,” or “The idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another.”

It was not, for much of the speech’s length, the kind of roof-raiser that closed the last two nights—but a largely well-produced convention set him up beforehand, with his wife Michelle (who was able to focus on his personal characteristics) and Bill Clinton (who could be cheerfully pugnacious).  It was fitting that Obama closed his speech by bringing out a line that gave the credit, and responsibility, for change to his audience—”You Did It That”*—because this time around, this convention was definitely not a solo act.

*Corrected typo—and one has to wonder if this credit-sharing refrain was meant to counter the ongoing “You Didn’t Build That” attacks from Republicans.

It was on that “You Did That” run when the timbre of Obama’s voice changed, back to the mountaintop oratory of ’08. It was like seeing a band on tour later into their career, playing the new songs but knowing they have to give the crowd the hits at the end of the set. “We don’t turn back,” he said. “We leave no one behind. We pull each other up.”

And then the confetti flew, to the like-minded strains of Bruce Springsteen’s recent song, “We Take Care of Our Own.” It wasn’t “Badlands” or “Thunder Road.” But might it be enough to get the fans to stick around for the encore?

One last disclaimer for the week: because I believe you should know this, here is where I disclose that I voted for Obama in 2008 and plan to again this year. As I’ve written before, I think that most people who care enough about politics to write about it have political opinions, and you should be able to take them into consideration if it matters to you. As a columnist, it’s my job to be opinionated but also to call things the way I see them without spinning them to help my side win, and it should be your right to decide whether I’ve done so. My political leanings, though, are not why I didn’t write a similar post on Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech — I was on vacation last week.

18 comments
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Danyz
Danyz

Eight years of Bush demolition call for eight years of Obama reconstruction.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

But Obama seems to be really embracing socialism, that is to utilize state power in doing business.

He seems to use the word "share" a lot. Is that a coded word for asking us to be the Borgs?

CMoultSD
CMoultSD

Most economist, that's people who actually study economics, and not right-wing blow hards who hate anything the government does, have argued that the problem with the stimulus package was that it did not reach far enough.  That being said, the Congressional Budget Office  report on the stimulus package found that it created 3.3 million jobs, all the while the Obama administration has cut over 600,00 government jobs.  So tell me again how the Obama administration has embraced socialism?

CMoultSD
CMoultSD

 You clearly don't know what socialism is, and you can't just make up the definition to mean government spending you don't agree with (if that was the case, the >$1.3 trillion spent on the wars is the worst socialist policy in U.S. history).  Socialism is an economic theory that advocating state ownership of industry.  And, like I stated before, the Obama administration as actually cut the size of the federal government, and increased private sector production.  So please try again with and example of  Obama socialist policy.

CMoultSD
CMoultSD

You clearly don't know what socialism is.  Socialism is an economic theory that suggests industrial production, distribution and exchange should be owned and regulated by the state.  You can call aspects of the stimulus project wasteful, fine (just like I consider $1.3 trillion and counting spent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wasteful). But it is not socialism.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

Jobs created do not necessarily mean the money is well spent. Many of the so called shovel ready projects were not really shovel ready, they were just political handouts. Maybe you have a different definition of socialism,  but in my book, big government with wasteful spending IS socialism.

anon76returns
anon76returns

And I heard his czars forced the US mint to print 'E Pluribus Unum' on our money now.  I'm not saying that he's going to replace the Constitution with the Communist Manifesto, but we will all definitely become Communist.

.

**disclaimer- I'm not up for apologizing to the irony impaired today, so, in case anyone was wondering, no, this is not a real right-wing opinion (as far as I know) but rather a facsimile thereof.

CMoultSD
CMoultSD

 Really embracing socialism? You must listen to too much Fox Noise! I challenge you to find one socialist program started under the Obama administration!

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

His stimulus programs wasted a lot of money. Do you need examples?

prestalex
prestalex

Yes, the economy is important. For me, however, the Direction in which I want to see our great country go and the vision that we shall embrace -- those are by far the most important reasons why I am a Democrat and why Romney/Ryan scare me: I just do not want our country to go back to the dark ages.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

Can you specify exactly what the Direction is? Your use of language reminds me of Carl Marx. I am not accusing you of being a communist, but you have to be more specific or otherwise all rhetoric  will have to sound the same.

prestalex
prestalex

Thank you for your kind remarks in your follow-up. I certainly do not like where our economy has been and I do worry about where it is going - but perhaps not in the same way that many others worry about it. I'll explain.

From a Sustainability viewpoint, our economy -indeed the world's economy is totally on the wrong track. Our businesses have been taking far too much from our natural resources to support our Western lifestyle. We are depleting the ocean of fish, razing our forests and in the process, destroying the natural habitats of insects, plants, animals and fish - our food chain. We are depleting our soils, draining our aquifers and stressing our climate. In short, our economic direction runs counter to what we should be doing to save our environment for ourselves and our children.

Business as usual will eventually lead to our demise. Neither candidate is facing up to this reality, but at least Obama is making moves to bring about more renewable energy instead of disavowing climate change like so many (but not all) Republicans.

No, I am not happy with our economy and the things that we need to shift to a Sustainable economy are drastic. So, likely no action will take place to save ourselves from ourselves. Gloomy.

prestalex
prestalex

Hey, you asked ME what the direction of the Democrat's vision was so I told you. Why are you trying to twist things around by responding that others would see things differently? Of course they would and they will - go vote for Romney, I really do not care what you do.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

"Yes, the economy is important. For me, however, the Direction in which I want to see our great country go and the vision that we shall embrace"

I think I misread your OP. I am concerned more about economy and I thought your were going to talk about a new direction about economy that the country should be pursuing.

I understand that what you mean by "the Direction in which I

want to see our great country go and the vision that we shall embrace" might not include the economy.

Peace.

prestalex
prestalex

I certainly can and will, for you:

* I strongly believe in equality at the altar: freedom for me to marry my male partner if we choose to marry. Under Romney this vision would never have a chance.

* Freedom for women to have access to family planning and mamograms and yes, freedom to make the tough decisions on abortion if that comes to be. No going back to back-room procedures.

* A sensible foreign policy built upon cooperation with our allies instead of making more and more enemies (needlessly) in this world. Not antagonizing Russia (as Romney enjoys doing) - we depend upon Russia for access to Afghanistan, not to mention keeping them from fulfilling SA300 missile sales to Iran...)

* I want a president that can deliver some much-needed tough-love to Israel for a change. I am a Jew but I DO NOT support Zionism and the taking of Palestinian lands. If we are to be a shining example of fairness and democracy, we need to demonstrate these values, not just bluster about them. Romney's recent trip to Israel was a disgracing display of racism.

* I deeply admire our president's vision of mutual compromise in order to arrive at a consensus on how to solve our nation's problems. Republicans (at least the extreme Tea Party members) have been refusing to make the slightest moves towards compromise. This, as you know, prevented an agreement on reducing 4 Trilion dollars from our deficit and also lead to Samp;P downgrading out nation's credit. Republicans put politics far above what is good for the country.

* If you want more, just ask

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

I understand those are policies you like. But other people can equally call their own favorite policies as the Direction and call yours the dark ages.

Educatio
Educatio

It is Not about Obama but USA in the long time period.

Do people think Obama will lead USA forever? Also Obama has limited age.

And America has so many White Leaders as the future human model.

Not just Obama and its black dream ego to make black your USA lives.

Do people feel how sad your children to be born as black persons?

That's why people build systems to make better Human Quality Not to become black.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

The president said what he needed to say last night. The message from the convention last night was: We Democrats already have good proposals on the table. We don't need to introduce anything new. All we need is a new Congress that will help us pass our proposals, legislation that will keep the economy growing.