Nel's New Day

September 5, 2012

Democratic Convention 2012 – Day One, Masterful

While the “We Built That”  theme of the GOP Convention 2012 was hateful and snarky, playing off a misinterpretation of a President Obama speech, the theme of the Democratic Convention 2012 is upbeat—“Americans Coming Together.” Although the people are the United States are polarized, President Obama has brought together everyone–women, minorities, youth, liberal older people, etc.– except the angry old white men.

Last night when the Democratic convention started, I was a bit apprehensive after being immersed in last week’s negativity and hatred of last week. The first speech I heard was from Tammy Duckworth, candidate for the House in Illinois. A returned Iraq veteran who lost both legs in Iraq, she now helps other veterans. Just as Republicans talked about their families last week, Duckworth talked about the way that she worked as a teenager to help support her family who had to have food stamps to survive. Republicans told about how their parents struggled; Duckworth talked about how this generation need a safety net to improve. She also said that a member of her family had been in every U.S. conflict since the Revolutionary War.

Last week, nobody talked about veterans or soldiers or the war except for John McCain who wants another disastrous war. Duckworth talked about how her fellow comrades saved her life because what’s what soldiers do. Her message was that we do for our country what her crew did for her. She also said, “Look adversity in the eye and come together to overcome it.”

I told my partner about Duckworth’s speech, and she joined me for the next one. The next speaker was a young woman from Phoenix (AZ), Stacy Lihn, who talked about how the Affordable Care Act saved her infant daughter because the ACA had removed the insurance caps. Mitt Romney said that the best day for the people who voted for Obama was the day that they cast the vote; Lihn said that the best day was when the Affordable Care Act passed and removed the insurance caps so that her infant daughter could have heart surgery. My partner and I were both hooked.

Lihn was followed by Secretary of State Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius who said that after President Obama was elected, “Being a mother is no longer a liability and being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.” She pointed out that people are getting refunds from the insurance company because they have to use a specific percentage for providing health care. She also said, “What’s missing from the Romney/Ryan Medicare Medicare plan is Medicare.”

The messages about how things are better since 2008 kept coming. Kal Penn, actor and former White House official, talked about the importance of the Pell grants for students and the jobs that his friends got with a car company that exists because of President Obama. He also described how the president kept the GOP from eliminating tax credits for the middle class when Republicans were bargaining to raise the debt ceiling. Lilly Ledbetter, prevented by the Supreme Court from filing a salary discrimination suit although she didn’t know about the discrimination for over 20 years, said in that wonderful Southern voice, “What a difference four years make!”

As Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said, “What’s at stake is the American dream. That dream is essential to who we are as a nation.” He described Romney’s disastrous governance in the state was with education cuts, increases in business taxes, loss in business confidence, and poor job creation. According to Patrick, freedom means keeping government out of our private affairs. Romney is “a fine fellow and a great salesman,” Patrick said, but “he’s more interested in having the job than doing the job.

And the upbeat speeches kept coming: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley described how the progress of the nation since George W. Bush, repeating “forward, not back” until the crowd chanted the refrain. Julian Castro, San Antonio’s mayor, gave a great speech about his mother and grandmother while he explained that, like Duckworth, he had achieved what he has done because of this country.

The tissues rolled out again when Elaine Byre, four out of five children in the military service and the fifth heading that way, talked about how the president helped bring the soldiers “honor and respect in action.” She met Michelle Obama after she wrote her a card last Christmas and got invited to the White House with her husband. Byre said she’s not even a political person but she’s a mom. “If somebody is there for my family and families like mine, then I’ll be there for them.” Her relationship with Michelle Obama shows that the First Lady walks her talk: “We were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.”

The hit of the night, however, was Michelle Obama and her magnificent energy and love for her husband. Her funny stories about their financial struggles far outdid those of Ann Romney: Barack Obama took her out on a date in his car with the hole in the floorboard so rusted that you could see the pavement below; Obama’s favorite coffee table was one that he found in a dumpster; and his best shoes were actually one-half size too small. When they got married, their combined student loan payments were larger than their mortgage. She talked from the heart, saying that she loved her husband instead of telling the audience that they should love and trust her husband the way that Ann Romney did. Her message was that the way that the president tries to make life better for people because it’s personal to him, not political. “When you walk through that door of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut. No, you give other folks the chance to succeed,” Michelle Obama said. “Doing the impossible is the history of this nation.”

And these were just the tip of the massive iceberg that rolled over the GOP blackness. Over and over people made the point that to get change, you have to keep working. It’s a long term thing.

I missed the first part of the speeches but read what Don Hamel‘s description. His blog is well worth reading. He wrote that, as a middle-aged heterosexual man, he listened to the speeches from Anthony R. Foxx, the young looking African-American mayor of Charlotte; the women of the U.S. House of Representatives; Rep. Jared Polis, the first openly gay parent to serve in the House; and the president of NARAL who talked about the battle over women’s reproductive rights. Hamel then described the audience as “a sea of faces of every color, people who wanted to discuss Muslim’s rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, voter disenfranchisement, every one of them with a seemingly different agenda.”

After watching all this, Hamel had an epiphany. He said, “It’s not tolerance that makes me support the rights of LGBT Americans; it’s love of country, as well as respect for its citizens. If you believe in America, you believe in it for everybody. And it’s practical, as well; your rights are only as safe as everyone else’s. I’m not tolerant of women’s rights to make choices about their own bodies; I’m insistent that everyone in my country has that right. And if anyone’s freedom can be taken away, so can yours.”

He concluded by writing that he is “not tolerant of the Tea Party, the Ayn Rand disciples, the people who will spend a 100 million dollars to avoid paying a dollar in taxes. Their values are not ‘traditional’ or ‘Christian,’ and the only ‘family’ they truly value is their own. The people who arm themselves against their countrymen, the ones who legislate by skin-tone or income size; we have given them all the attention they should be allowed. They’re to be feared or pitied, but they needn’t be listened to any longer. The Americans at the podium, and the Americans in the crowd all have many voices, but they are all saying the same thing as I am: Move America forward.” [Thanks, Don!]

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland summarized the difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney in very blunt terms. As he said, “If Mitt Romney was Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.”

Deval Patrick encouraged the Democrats to grow a backbone to get President Obama re-elected. Last night started this process.

Asides: Fact checking has now reached a new low. FactCheck.org refuted San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro’s claim that Romney would “raise taxes on the middle class” was false because Romney had promised he wouldn’t do this. This is the same Romney who consistently switches from one position to another, the most recent today when he stated that he would not support any abortions, even to save a woman’s life. Yesterday he disagreed with himself.

Ezra Klein said that last night’s speeches may be remembered as the turning point in health care politics when “Democrats stood up and began fighting for their health care law.”

Less than two years ago, Paul Ryan asked for a health care grant to develop a new facility in his district at Racine (WI).

CNN contributor Erick Erickson referred to the women speakers at the Democratic convention as “the Vagina Monologues.” Erickson, who once said he “kind of like[d] the idea” that women are barred from a golf club so that he wasn’t “hanging out at some women’s event,” half-heartedly expressed regret for his comment, saying “My apologies to those offended by my tweet. Wasn’t my intention.” (He doesn’t sound very sorry.)

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