You’ve had a few days to rest and now it’s time for more speeches and, hopefully, more people ranting at furniture. The Democratic National Convention begins Tuesday night in Charlotte and you can watch all the action right on this page.
When it comes to the presidential election, the debate the press seems to be obsessed with right now is: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?
On Sunday’s news shows, Democrats had a hard time simply saying “Yes!” to this question. They know a simple answer ends up ignoring the fact that much of the damage to the economy that was still to come when President Obama took office.
For millions of individual Americans who are still suffering, the answer may be “No.” But for American as a whole, clearly we are better off.
Ask yourself: Are you better off now than you were an Osama bin Laden ago? Are you better off now gaining more than a hundred thousand jobs a month when we were losing more than half a million four years ago? Is your 401lk, if you’re lucky enough to have one, better off now than when the Dow was cut in half? We were better off when the Iraq War seemed endless, when insurance companies could deny kids because of pre-existing conditions, when the auto industry looked as if it might disappear?
But the answer to this question does require nuance to not ignore the millions who still suffer.
That’s the Democrats job in Charlotte.
Tonight’s speakers include:
Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — a recovering Republican
First Lady Michelle Obama
Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio
Republicans are counter-programming against the convention in hopes of retaining the tiny little bounce they received from their shoutfest in Tampa Bay last week. Conservative commentators are fretting that President Bill Clinton may outshine President Obama — as if that isn’t a problem they wouldn’t like to have.
Come this page for ongoing updates about the convention and then join us from video and exclusive commentary as the convention begins.
6:33 PM EST
An hour and a half into the Democratic National Convention it’s safe to say we’ve already seen more energy and a better speech than anything the Republicans offered last week in Tampa Bay. Mayor Cory Booker (D-Newark) took his opportunity as the Chairman of the Platform Committee to deliver a rousing speech. It was spoken by a man who clearly has aspirations on a national level, yielding tears from several delegates on the floor.
As this convention proceeds, it’s almost shocking to hear Democrats be able to express their ideas without being yelled at by someone. Republicans are, of course, giving their commentary over Twitter and social media. Their controversies they’re trying to manufacture include the fact that the Democratic platform does not include the platform — much like the Constitution. They’re also playing up a comment from a video that quickly said government is “the one thing we all belong to.” An issue that will outrage almost no one — accept people who hate government so much that they elected George W. Bush twice.
What will outrage people is Mitt Romney’s plan to raise taxes on the middle class. Romney disputes this objective analysis. But expect to hear this charge a few billion times this convention.
7:46 PM EST
All of the female Democratic congressional representatives and candidates were led on stage by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). They are a diverse group who reminded me of the strangest moment from last week’s Republican convention. Mitt Romney’s wife Ann, apparently in an unscripted moment, yelled out, “I love you women.” It was a striking statement for the directness of her appeal. It was the subtext of her speech laid bare. Watching the over half dozen women speaking about the issues that concern them it was hard not feel the old writer’s axiom of “show not tell” in practice. The Democrats tell the story of their concern for women with the many women they nominate. It’s a subtle way to say, “I love you women.”
The tribute to the late Senator Ted Kennedy presented a unique opportunity to not only connect to the legacy of the Kennedy family, it also presented a chance to show vintage Mitt Romney. When Senator Kennedy ran against Romney in 1994, he famously said again and again, “Mitt Romney is not pro-choice or anti-choice. He’s multiple choice.” In the video presentation, they showed Kennedy getting out that punchline in a debate with Romney. Super sly.
10:17 PM EST
Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland gave a speech that only a former governor could give. He diced Romney’s record of investing in companies that outsource and offshore jobs. “His money summers in the Caymans and winters in the Swiss Alps.”
This is a speech that would not have made since in the Democratic Party of the 1990s that was dominated by the very pro-trade Democratic Leadership Council. But in a tough economy, facing a private equity mogul, economic populism is alive inside this Democratic convention. Strickland gave voice to the anxiety Democrats are counting Americans to have about Mitt Romney’s focus on profits.
Kathleen Sebelius speech tying her congressman father’s record of voting for Medicare to Obamacare almost disappeared in the burnt rubber still in the air from Strickland. Mayor Rahmn Emanuel (D-Chicago) gave a speech that was exceptionally non-belligerent. He stuck to the president’s record of delivering on promises of change.
Actor Kal Penn delivered a humorous appeal to young people filled with examples of how his friends have specifically benefited from President Obama’s policies.
Governors Deval Patrick (R-MA) and Martin O’Malley (R-MD) had a mini 2016 primary. Patrick one with a speech that roared and soared but hit practical points that spoke to pride in governance. Could Democrats nominate two African Americans in a row?
Mayor Julian Castro (D-San Antonio) gave a speech that did not end up reminding many of Barack Obama from 2004, as some expected. Instead he gave an increasingly practical speech that featured a big laugh when he ended up giving Governor Romney credit for ObamaCare. Are we looking at the first Democratic senator from Texas in generations in a few years? I think so.
Now, the First Lady.
11:09 PM EST
Wow. The First Lady’s speech exemplified how the personal can be political without being partisan. She did not mention her husband’s opponents once, but she gave a stirring defense of her husband’s presidency, subtly contrasting of how his vision differs from Mitt Romney’s.
By addressing how the White House affected her husband and her marriage, she gave a rousing answer to the question of where we are after four years. To Michelle Obama, the answer is we are better off. We are better off because of her husband’s policies and achievements, which she firmly believes in a way that does not at all seem shrill. And we are better off because through the presidency her husband has become even more the man she fell in love with. To her, he is a man who values hard work and leaving the doors he travels through open so others can follow. He is a man who cares deeply for the people he serves, which makes it easy for her to care for him.
After a speech like this, the narrow frame of “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” seems a bit trite. The argument the First Lady made was: We are better off because we have faced the worst and been unfazed. This was possible because we believed in a man who believed in us. It’s an argument that gives meaning to a campaign that partisanship cannot.