Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Democratic National Convention, Day #1

Yeah, as a graphic artist, I'm not digging the logo.
Wow, what a difference a party makes. Well, the party and the fact that I don't have a brain-splitting sinus headache as I did all through the RNC last week. And I know that I'm biased as a liberal. But, so far, the mood of the DNC is quite different, much more uplifting and positive. And the crowd seems to be connecting, rather than just hooting an hollering (and booing).

This being the first day, you wouldn't expect the speakers to be the top-shelf speakers. You'd be wrong, or rather, I was. There were a couple of clunkers in there, some only suffering for placement after a spectacular speaker. But from what I saw, the DNC's first night was a spectacular sucess, and there was at least one star born.

I'm in the Pacific time zone, so after work (and after my nightly exercise), I could only watch from about 5:30 pm (8:30 EDT). The first speaker I caught was Tammy Duckworth, who was quite good, very engaging and inspiring. I was watching MSNBC while also preparing dinner, so the next speaker I caught was Kathleen Sebelius, and she was fine. Boilerplate speech, nothing bad, a few good points. Rahm Emanuel spoke next, and I'll be honest: I'm not a fan. I had the mixer on, and didn't pay a lot of attention to him. He may have been great, I don't know. [Story continues below]

Following Rahm though was one of the best speeches of the night, by actor Kal Penn (of Harold & Kumar), who has worked with Obama on youth outreach. His tone was strong, his interaction with the audience intuitive, and he had a perfect balance between seriousness and humor (even getting a zinger off on Emanuel). The energy in the room for Penn's speech was warmer and more engaged than anything I saw at the RNC last week. And it was just getting warmed up.

I saw Lilly Ledbetter next, of the Ledbetter Act, the first legislation signed by President Obama. Her speech was great--though with her thick Southern accent, she reminded me of Flo from TV's Alice on occasion. She was emphatically for Obama, and got in some digs at Romney. Very good for a non-professional. But it was Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts (since Romney vacated) who had the first real barn-burner of a speech. Like a revival preacher--but without the annoying evangelical theatrical speech inflections--Patrick steered the audience everywhere he wanted them to go. If you could see a crescendo, it would have occurred a couple of times during his speech. [Story continues below]

The Governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley came out next and. . .well, he was okay. He had a hard act to follow. And he had a line he kept getting the crowd to repeat that quickly became tedious. It had a great payoff, but the buildup was far too prolonged. But he ended strong, and set the stage for quite possibly a future star. Or two.

I'll be honest, before Tuesday night I'd never heard of  Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio. He had the crowd in his hand, much like Patrick, but with a much different style. Castro is very youthful, energetic, personable, charming. And he also comes off quite intelligent and well spoken. It's quite the package, and surprise, surprise, he has a twin brother who is also active in politics. Keep your eyes on these guys. [Story continues below]

A gauzy (but well done) Michelle Obama video followed, and then the First Lady was introduced by military mom Elaine Brye. Mrs. Obama then came out, and proved every single right-wing hatemonger wrong about her. I'm sure they don't see it that way (but I don't know what inspires their hatred in the first place). Mrs. Obama was warm, well spoken, charming, and had the audience in the palm of her hand like some of the others, but much more so. The major difference between Mrs. Obama and, say, Ann Romney is easy: realness. She seems like a real, approachable woman. The appeal of Mrs. Obama's speech is difficult to encapsulate, because it's an emotional reaction. Which is likely proof to critics that it's style over substance. [Story continues below]

And you may have noticed that this writeup is about the style of the speakers. That has to do more with my writing ability and the late hour that I write this, rather than a lack of substance. Almost all of the speakers I heard spoke out about helping the poor, gay rights, the right to choose, the military, veterans, health care. And all of them were clearly there to support the re-election of Barack Obama. While Patrick and Castro may get some mileage out of their speeches, none of the speakers seemed to be auditioning for 2016 as they did at the RNC.  The speakers were clear on the President's accomplishments, and on the point that they think we need to let him continue to complete the job.

Oddly enough, the digs at Romney (and to George W. Bush, for that matter) were fairly mild. . .except for former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, who I caught in a replayed clip. He was clearly the attack dog of the night! But I'll give the night a solid A grade, particularly in comparison to the RNC.

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