After two nights of successful speeches by the two Clintons who have dominated Democratic politics for two decades, the world’s oldest party has finally shown the world that it actually can get its house in order and its act together. Which is no small accomplishment for a political party that has delighted for decades in playing Lucy to its own Charlie Brown, yanking the political football out from under itself. (Can you say Kerry, 2004; Gore, 2000; Dukasis, 1988; Carter, 1980; McGovern, 1972….). Tonight all eyes turn to Denver’s Mile High to see if the newly anointed heir of the party can deliver and knock one out of the park, across the country and all the way to the White House.
And Obama is far better situated to do so today than he was at the beginning of the week. Three days ago—which, in this case, is about two centuries in political terms—the media and punditocracy was abuzz over the looming self-immolation of the Democrats. Hillary would withhold her support of Obama to do him in this November and claim the nomination in 2012. Bill would finish the job with a political dagger in Barrack’s back. Democrats would erupt into a 1968-style riot on the convention floor during the roll call vote.
Three days later, none of that has come to pass. The Democrats have closed ranks. The Clintons, placing their legacy ahead of short term political ambitions—and resurrecting the reputation of one ex-Clinton president and preserving the possibility of one more future Clinton President, in the process—rendered all the insta-adds by the GOP over Clintonian sour grapes irrelevant. And, if Obama delivers the speech he has, to it may all be over but the shouting before the Republicans even gavel things to order next week.
And pity the Republicans their moment in the shadows. Coming after the Democrats should give the GOP the chance to steal the national bully pulpit back as the bright spotlight of media attention swings to the Twin Cities. But no matter who John McCain picks on Friday for veep, the GOP convention lacks the drama and poignancy the Dem’s had. There is no contention over the roll call vote, no “Will Rudy give a tepid endorsement? Will Huckabee’s fan base riot in the hall?”intrigue. What will happen next week in Minnesota will be about as exciting as everything else that happens in the land of smoked white fish on any given day. (No disrespect intended: Minnesotan like things unexciting.)
The Democrats had the twin anniversaries of Women’s Suffrage and Martin Luther King’s immortal “I Have a Dream Speech” to frame their most critical speeches. What will McCain have? The anniversary of his former senate leader Trent Lott saying how much better things would have been had segregationist Strom Thurmond been elected president?
When McCain gives his Big Speech next week it will be framed in comparison to Obama’s tonight. After that, the difference between the two candidates—a mile high and 3000 miles wide–will be clearly manifest to the American people.
And Obama leaves well-intentioned, nice, heroic but a generation or three out of date John McCain miles behind in the political dust.