Wednesday, September 5, 2012
I'll get to last night soon enough -- if the Spencerian Blue feed and Facebook are to be believed, Deval Patrick smashed grand slam after grand slam, Governor Ted Strickland is America's newest rock star, Mayor Cory Booker gave the speech equivalent of rescuing a little old lady from a house fire, and the First Lady set the bar pretty damn high for her husband. We can talk about all of that -- and the anecdotal reports that the Democratic Convention is more open, more relaxed, and basically a better time than the Republican Convention.
It is at this point, though, that I want to pivot our conversation a bit. Now, you and I have been talking about the Republicans for a good long time. I've been talking about them on this blog for even longer. After all, it was just a few months ago we were in the midst of a protracted Republican primary, the outcome of which seemed uncertain at best. Remember the heady days of Cain-mentum? Michele Bachmann? Rick Perry?
To this point, it has been largely the Big-Top Republican Freak Show. With respect to the Executive Branch, the Democrats have the advantage of incumbency. This is obviously not an insignificant advantage. However, the challenger's advantage is that they get several months -- maybe closer to a year or so -- to try to paint a picture of the incumbent.
The problem is, the picture from the Republican side is emerging as at least two different styles. It's Picasso cubism meets Norman Rockwell realism (and just a touch of Jackson Pollock abstract expressionism thrown in, just because).
As Mitt Romney and the Republican Party sloshes paint all over itself trying to paint Barack Obama as... something evil, I will concede that it has made for fun, if not great, blogging.
There are simply too many competing narratives interrupting the Republican hive mind on who Obama is or what to say about it. Check out this tweet (admittedly, outside the Blue feed), from a few days ago during the GOP Convention:
Had a great time tonight w/friends at the McCain After Party. Can't wait to evict @BarackObama out of our White House.
-- Ryan Higgins @RyanHigginsUS
Our White House. Suggest this tweet has racist overtones -- or is even overtly racist -- and I'm sure Mr. Higgins would say that he only meant "the people's White House". Or even that the White House should be controlled by conservatives or Republicans.
But the problem is that in the current Republican groupthink, it can be both not racist and entirely racist. It can serve dual purposes, seemingly at odds with itself, and yet somehow conservative people have rationalized all of this.
I had occassion to be in a position where a "moderate" Republican was telling me about his more conservative friend who "made him" watch the new Dinesh D’Souza propaganda hit-piece "2016: Obama's America," the thesis of which is apparently that President Obama is anti-colonialist ("he sent the bust of Churchill back to England!").
At the risk of giving away where I was at the time, I was not in a position to respond in any way. Indeed, I was physically unable to do so.
After hearing just a bit too much about Obama "hanging out with socialists and communists in Chicago" and "if you're the radical type, get a gun!" my lecturer said, Well, of course, the real question is, is any of it relevant?
Of course it's not relevant. None of the attacks are relevant. And my lecturer -- not a dumb guy -- knew that. That's the point. These attacks are embraceable in their irrelevancy. Other people are saying all this wild stuff... is it true? Well, who knows! Better vote for Romney, anyway.
It's an accidental strategy, and it has provided a surprisingly strong platform for the Republicans this time around.
But is it enough to go up against the team which led off last night?
It's a good question. The better question is this: will the message coming out of Charlotte be hopeful, and will it be enough to overcome the crazy?
This is what I'm trying to get over: talking about the heaping helping of Republican crazy we've dined on for the last several months. We've gotten a clear -- well, unclear, style-less -- picture of what they're going to do.
Now it is time to focus on the message of the incumbent. He's got a record to showcase, and given where we are, if we're honest with ourselves, it will be a challenge to convince people not to switch horses in mid-stream.
Part of that challenge, I think, is showcasing not just Obama's record, but to showcase the idea that Democrats at-large are not a bunch of wild-eyed lying fire-breathers. That we do governance well.
Last night, I think you have to agree that this mission was accomplished, or at least was in the process of being accomplished.
The Spencerian Blue feed was as busy as I've ever seen it during the First Lady's speech. In fact, she did a pretty good job of burning up the tweeter machine, at 28,003 tweets per minute at the end of her speech. There's a reason for that, Matt, and I'm not quite sure anyone at Spencerian Blue has figure it out yet -- it's certainly not something I've seen anyone in the mainstream media articulate in quite the right way. The reason, I think, lies in something which was actually in Mrs. Obama's biographical video, some remarks she delivered earlier:
"If any family in this country struggles, then we cannot be fully content with our own family's good fortune. Because that is not what we do in this country. That is not who we are. That is not who we are."
Her speech was so popular because she is the first to frame the Democratic message of 2012.
If you're looking for a concise message against a libertarian-based, Atlas Shrugged-inspired, anti-government, schizophrenic Republican Party lead by an ultra-wealthy elitist (whose attack ads are funded by a billionaire casino mogul), then you could do worse than that.
If you are looking for a positive, proactive message to speak to a people who are still suffering in an economy too slow to recover, still struggling in the shadow of wars gone too long, still afraid for the future of their children and families, then that's about as good as you can get.
Problem is, there's another Obama coming up soon who has little choice but to do better.
Over to you.
PS: I saw your inspiration for this time around from The Roots and I'll take a pass. My inspiration today is from Aretha Franklin, from her awesome two CD-set -- which it may surprise you to learn I own -- "Amazing Grace". She more or less holds her own against the legendary Mahalia Jackson, but that's a debate for another time and another blog.
Because I know you'll complain if you don't get your way, here's a not nearly as good a song by the same name from some band called "The Roots".
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Thursday, September 6, 2012
A muted reaction @SpencerianRed to the actual convention goings-on told me two things about the first night of the DNC. It went really well for the Democrats, and it doesn't really matter all that much. Even birther buffoon Donald Trump tweeted nice things about Michelle Obama's speech. From retweets alone I can tell there is significantly more enthusiasm in Charlotte than was on display in Tampa and that is a good sign for team Obama. The red meat quotient was high, but there are distractions afoot.
In the first two days of conventioneering, we have three Nazi references aimed at Republicans. We have a voice vote floor fight over God and Jerusalem, we have a security nightmare with POTUS choosing at the last minute to upstage - oops, I mean attend - the big Bill Clinton speech. He couldn't be there the night before for his wife, but whether it is surrogate maintenance or some other reason, he is in Charlotte today.
Maybe he is just like you and me... Excited to hear what Bill has to say.
In a way, he is counting on his predecessor to put into sharp relief the picture that Team Chicago is attempting to paint. They have essentially tried to set up 2012 as a choice between Clinton's 90's and Bush's 00's with Obama playing the part of Clinton and Romney as the Bush fill-in. Only problem is that '96 didn't have the same baggage. You can speak to it much better than I - after all, I was still in high school and a month short of being able to vote in that election - and you worked for the guy. I do know there wasn't 8% unemployment and trillion dollar budget deficits. Those two facts, repeated ad nauseum on @SpencerianRed, tell me that Chicago better have a stronger argument than "give me an incomplete on term 1 and hope for the Clinton years in term 2"...
The message Team Obama will seek to carry forward will probably be one of "in it together" vs. "go it on your own". The flip side of the GOP message of "I built this" - and really, what POTUS was trying to say when he made the now infamous comment. I am really curious to see if it plays it that way in Clinton's speech tonight. Curious to see how much Clinton self/spouses promotion and how much Obama surrogate shows up. Curious to see how partisan versus how statesman. Curious to see how Slick Willie tells the story of the past four years - particularly the signature achievement that eluded him - healthcare.
People think of Obama as a great Orator, and in many ways he is. Inspiring, thoughtful, etc. He is not, however, on the same plane as William Jefferson Clinton. Not even close. My guess is that Clinton will say things tonight that will soon creep into Obama's stump speeches, will show up in his debate responses, will be go-to lines for Cutter and LaBolt. Before there was Obama in '04, there was Bill Clinton connecting with America in a visceral way that neither Obama nor Romney can even approach. It should be fun tonight.
But I am not going to hear that from my side of the Echo Chamber. I'd much rather be following your feed tonight.
Enjoy the old boss,
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Welcome to a special Democratic Convention Edition of Into the Echo Chamber, the weekly electronic conversation of the 2012 presidential campaign as viewed from two Twitter feeds. Matt Spence is monitoring the Twitterverse of the Romney Campaign, Republicans, and the "red" side of the aisle at @SpencerianRed. I am monitoring the tweets of the Obama Team, Democrats and the blue team using @SpencerianBlue. Our email-based back-and-forths are normally posted here on Thursdays.
For the week of the Democratic Convention, we will be attempting to post one exchange per day. Stay tuned.