the dems’ r rockin’!

We’ll see how the momentum flows but I’ve been feeling optimistic listening to the Democrats all week. I think they’re making a strong and aggressive case in compelling ways. Kerry even got a little rowdy last night – I thought he took a few cues from Al Sharpton in terms of delivery. 🙂
The one weakness I see is that the emphasis on hope can present an image of naivete. Obviously Kerry is not naive in any way, but I think people do feel that the world is “a more dangerous place” these days and that danger needs to be addressed as forthrightly and convincingly as the desire to build toward improved conditions and a climate of hope rather than fear.
The text from all the speeches from the convention are available. (Thanks to Becky for sharing this link with the comm-grad listserv.) The best speeches (so I’ve heard from others) were those by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. We’ll have to see how folks compare Kerry’s acceptance speech with their context-setting speeches.
NPR has archived the audio if you want to listen to any of the speeches.
The editorial in the NYTimes this morning is decidedly positive. To read it,

Strong Show of Strength
July 30, 2004
BOSTON, July 29 – For months, John Kerry and his supporters
have told voters that he is strong enough to keep the
nation safe and caring enough to make it comfortable with
him as president. On Thursday night his goal was to show
the biggest audience of his life that both claims were
true, and he gave it his best shot.
In an emphatic speech that used some variation of the word
“strength” 17 times, Mr. Kerry portrayed himself not only
as a plausible, but also as a vastly preferable commander
in chief to President Bush, one whose own combat service
left him with a special understanding of the twin American
traditions of force and restraint.
“In these dangerous days, there is a right way and a wrong
way to be strong,” Mr. Kerry told the hushed convention.
“Strength is more than tough words. After decades of
experience in national security, I know the reach of our
power, and I know the power of our ideals.”
In the face of polls showing Mr. Bush vulnerable but still
considered stronger on terrorism and less inclined to
equivocate, Mr. Kerry echoed another reticent Yankee – the
first President Bush, who said at his nominating convention
in 1988 that “what it all comes down to is the man at the
desk.” Mr. Kerry declared, “In the end, it’s not just
policies and programs that matter; the president who sits
at that desk must be guided by principle.”
The sting of Mr. Kerry’s message was clear: He – not the
second George Bush – is that man. And he sharpened it with
his own twist on the incumbent’s pledge four years ago to
“uphold the honor and the dignity” of the presidential
office, by vowing to “restore trust and credibility to the
White House.”
But Mr. Kerry also had a second task to keep his show from
closing in Boston: He had to assure voters around the
country that he cares about them and their concerns. So he
promised, “We value an America where the middle class is
not being squeezed, but doing better.”
After a year in which he has been borne along more by the
Democrats’ lust to defeat Mr. Bush than by any special
passion to elect him, Mr. Kerry may well have turned a
corner on the path toward inspiring his party, and inviting
swing voters to put him in the White House. He perspired
visibly in the overcrowded hall, but his delivery was
fluid, relaxed and assured, and he smiled often.
“It may not be the man,” said John Bourne, a delegate from
Omaha. “It’s the man and the message. He’s the catalyst
that’s bringing it together.”
Though Mr. Kerry likes to say he has “some piece of me that
cherishes a kind of just holding onto it a little,” he let
loose a little instead, talking of his family, his faith
and his friends from his service in Vietnam in terms
unusually personal for him.
He described his father as a World War II pilot who gave
him his first baseball mitt and bicycle and “lived out the
responsibilities and sacrifices of the greatest
generation.” His mother, he said, was his Cub Scout den
mother who stayed up late to help with his homework, sat by
his bed when he was sick and “taught me to see trees as the
cathedrals of nature.”
“My parents inspired me to serve, and when I was in high
school, a junior, John Kennedy called my generation to
service,” he added. “It was the beginning of a great
journey – a time to march for civil rights, for voting
rights, for the environment, for women, for peace. We
believed we could change the world. And you know what? We
Again and again, Mr. Kerry reached beyond the Democratic
delegates who packed the FleetCenter to those millions of
viewers and voters who have yet to make up their minds.
Recent polling by the Annenberg Election Survey shows that
nearly half of all “persuadable” voters – those either
undecided or willing to reconsider – so far have neither a
favorable nor an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Kerry.
“The American people want to know that he has the vision
for the country, that he is ready to lead the country, that
he is prepared,” said Mr. Kerry’s colleague, Representative
Martin T. Meehan of Massachusetts. “And they want to know
what kind of president he is going to be.”
Mr. Kerry’s answer was: a bit like the best of them. He
echoed phrases or achievements of popular Democrats like
Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. He
echoed Roosevelt, declaring, to tumultuous applause, “The
future doesn’t belong to fear, it belongs to freedom.” He
borrowed from Kennedy’s 1960 pledge by promising, “We can
do better, and we will.” He seconded Jimmy Carter’s pledge
never to lie by declaring, “We have it in our power to
change the world again, but only if we’re true to our
ideals – and that starts by telling the truth to the
American people.”
He recalled the tattered flag that flew on his Navy Swift
boat in the Mekong Delta and “draped the caskets of men
that I served with and friends I grew up with,” in a sign
that he would not tolerate the kind of Republican attacks
that helped sink the last Democratic presidential nominee
from Massachusetts – Michael S. Dukakis – and repeated the
assertion of his onetime rival, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, that
“that flag doesn’t belong to any president.”
He even stole a line from Ron Reagan’s description of his
father’s faith, asserting: “I don’t wear my religion on my
sleeve, but faith has given me values and hope to live by,
from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don’t
want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln
told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side.”
The speech, written in longhand and polished with help
from Kennedy’s old speechwriters, was full of the
oratorical inversions that one of them, Theodore C.
Sorensen, made famous. “It’s time for those who talk about
family values to start valuing families,” went one
not-so-veiled dig at the Republicans.
All year, Mr. Kerry’s advisers have expressed confidence
that Mr. Bush will never be able to turn Mr. Kerry into Mr.
Dukakis, whom the elder Bush managed to paint as a weak and
wobbly liberal unfit to be commander in chief. Despite
harsh television advertisements from the Republicans, that
has so far proven true.
But Mr. Kerry, whose long Senate career has left a string
of sometimes contradictory votes, is more vulnerable to
charges of inconsistency. So he took trouble to cast
himself as a determined skeptic, one who “will ask hard
questions and demand hard evidence” and make sure that
“policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted
by politics.”
Mr. Kerry concluded with another barb, buried in an
optimistic blanket, by echoing Robert F. Kennedy’s famous
assertion that he dreamed things that never were and asked,
“Why not?” by saying, “Now it’s our time to ask: What if?”
He wondered whether doctors might find cures for diseases
and the country “a president who believes in science,” and
“leadership that’s as good as the American dream – so that
bigotry and hatred never again steal the hope or future of
any American.”
Mr. Kerry will have an answer on Nov. 2.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

2 thoughts on “the dems’ r rockin’!”

  1. Stephanie–I agree with you plenty–Barack Obama’s speech was terrific (among several excellent ones, I should add). Bob Herbert wrote in a June 4th column for the NYT that we should remember the name Barack Obama. Glad I did.
    Al Sharpton’s 14 minute ad lib from his 6 minute prepared speech was energizing–and I really liked his ‘ride the donkey’ rebuke to Bush.
    I was dissapointed in the NYT commenator for PBS (David Brooks). After Obama’s speech, one of his first comments was like “it’s like watching Tiger Woods in his first tournament” and he continued with sports metaphors (“rookie,” “team” and atleast 2 others) in every one of his commentaries on Obama….luckily the other commentators did not “run with it” and avoided the sports metaphors in describing Obama. I shouldn’t be too surprised when he later compalined that Teresa Heinz Kerry’s speech was not in a traditional first lady style. ugh.

  2. Oy, I have to say that my tolerance for the commentators’ arguments runs very very low. I find their mode of discourse so obnoxious. (Encounter the limits of my mass comm sensibility?!)
    Donna sent along an interesting article on how Bush’s use of 9-11 to evoke fear is supported as “solid human psychology”. It’s discouraging, on the one hand, yet one always must hope that more and more people will become aware of the manipulation.
    Reuters, July 30, 2004: “Talking about death can raise people’s need for psychological security, the researchers report in studies to be published in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science and the September issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.”

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