There is a two part movie analogy to what took place at the Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte, North Carolina, last week. One is the the trial drama, where the parade of witnesses for the defense – and the incumbent is always on the defense – testify to the jury of voters, and validate allegiance to the candidate and his policies. At the end of the trial, all the voters are charged to deliberate and render a verdict: re-elect or not to re-elect.
The other kind of movie scene the convention spectacle brings to mind, is the Braveheart moment, where the general rides up and down the line, motivating the troops for battle, letting them know how important their sacrifice of time and their commitment to the outcome are the keys to victory, for the candidate, and everything for which the president stands. The faithful then charge ahead, into the phalanx of skeptics and naysayers, and their barbed memes, relying on the party lieutenants to keep them from being outflanked.
Clearly, Bill Clinton was the star witness in the trial portion, after San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro gave the preliminary argument, laying out the case for Obama’s re-election. Michelle Obama was, of course, the chief character witness. Sandra Fluke and Cecile Richards testified to the president’s commitment to women’s health issues. Elizabeth Warren testified to the progress of finance reform.
Even non-political celebrities offered testimony. There was Stacey Lihn, the mother of a young girl who was born with a congenital heart defect, who had her medical insurance cap lifted because of the Affordable Care Act, know as Obamacare. There was Benita Veliz, the young Latina who was brought here from Mexico illegally, as a child, by her parents, and was put into deportation proceedings after she was pulled over for running a stop sign. She was the first undocumented person to ever address a national political convention. Veliz is now an advocate for the DREAM Act, and, she told reporters the next day, is “grateful for what the administration has done, to allow DREAMers to have deferred action.” And then there was the parade of private citizens, rebuttal witnesses against Gov. Romney and his tenure at Bain Capital, and defending President Obama’s support of businesses, large and small.
Then, the lieutenants mounted their horses and riled up the convention with their closing arguments. Former Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm, whipped the crowd into a frenzy with the line, “In Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator; the workers get the shaft,” and led them in a nonstop ovation, as she rendered a litany of swing states and the number of jobs saved there because of the domestic auto industry bailout.
Sen. John Kerry, the party’s 2004 nominee, showed uncharacteristic zeal as he exposed the foreign policy weaknesses of the opposing battle line: “It isn’t fair to say Mitt Romney doesn’t have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position;” and, “For Mitt Romney, an overseas trip is what you call it when you trip all over yourself overseas. It wasn’t a goodwill mission—it was a blooper reel;” and, “Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska; Mitt Romney talks like he’s only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV.”
Then, Vice President Joe Biden mounted the stage. “Conviction,” he said, bringing the drumbeat up, slow and steady. “Resolve,” he said, unfurling the Obama banner, trotting out reminders for the partisans, of just what it is they were fighting for.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said, reaching into the crowd, “I’m here to tell you, bravery resides in the heart of Barack Obama. And time and time again, I witnessed him summon it. This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and steel in his spine. And because of all the actions he took, because of the calls he made–and because of the grit and determination of American workers–and the unparalled bravery of our special forces—we can now proudly say—Osama Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive!” The Democrats shook their signs and cheered wildly for Joe, for he had been one of them, risen through the ranks, to serve and honor a nation, under the leadership of President Barack Obama.
Then, out Obama came, to cheers and adulation. “I’m the President,” he declared, and they roared. He reminded them of their part in the battle:
“America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together,” he said. “See, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens – you were the change…
“If you turn away now – if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible…well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void…
“Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.”
The crowd followed his words, but did they get that he was talking about them? “I’m hopeful because of you,” he told them, and they cheered again. Finally, he charged them to enter the breech, the wide expanse that separates our base politics, if not our political parties, and bring in the votes. “America,” he said, “I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now… but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.” And then he released the cheering throng into the electorate, to change minds, sway votes and win victory.
They charged together, the Republicans from the right, the Democrats from the left, fists waving, signs swaying, shouts of “Four more years,” and screams of, “Romney for America.” Over the next two months, they will clash, somewhere over the middle, where they’ll all stop, and start chatting vociferously over cocktails, while James Carville and Mary Matalin, highballs in hand, look around, wondering, “Who invited all these people?”