I actually feel sorry for people who didn’t tune into Barack Obama’s acceptance speech tonight. By God, I really do. It wasn’t just that Obama yet again proved what a great speaker he is. It isn’t just that Obama nailed a great speech, most of which he quite likely penned as is his wont, unlike the ill-equipped charlatan McCain. It isn’t just that Obama threw down the gauntlet on that pear-faced poseur, that pseudo-everyman, marrying-into-money, wanna-be, faux upper cruster, and actual classist elitist McCain, concerning a variety of issues from the adequate competence to govern to delivering great line such as, “in an ownership society…it’s time for them to own their own failure.” It isn’t just that Obama rightly attacked both McCain and Bush while anticipating and deflecting against anticipated attacks. It isn’t just that Obama again differentiated himself from McCain and Bush on Iraq specifically and foreign policy generally while rightly tying them together, since McCain is by any honest assessment pandering to the same group that visualized, constructed, implemented, defended, compromised, and hamstrung America’s failed war effort in Iraq. It isn’t just that Obama reached out to a broad base of Democrats, Republicans, independents, undecideds, workers, students, soldiers, parents, children, veterans, young adults, educators, and more.
It’s that, in one of the truly great speeches of our generation, Barack Obama delivered a clarion call in stark detail for change that at once unified wide polities of the electorate, challenged everyone to pick a side, did so in brilliant and commanding terms, and maintained the positivist core values that have undergirded Obama’s campaign for the presidency–all the while performed in a massive, outdoor theater that commanded and redefined convention politics as we know it. Obama’s speech was incredible, incredibly well delivered, brilliantly written, searing in its analysis and political framework, and captivating for over 40 minutes–long without being long-winded. More than that, Obama transformed an enormous and brilliantly planned outdoor event in a massive arena–well beyond the scope and seating of any other convention event, setting, and speech ever planned–into a forum on America, its promise, its vast yet still unrealized potential (despite its dominant if somewhat tenuous hegemonic position), and what America can and under Obama may well offer the rest of the world–somewhat contingent upon whether or not you believe in Obama’s implicit but nonetheless pervasive belief in American exceptionalism.
Even more so, Obama defied convention practice–and in extremely rare agreement my agreement with neo-fascist Pat Buchanan–and eschewed the common and oft-effective practice of inserting faux dramatic pauses into the speech to build momentum within the acceptance speech. Like Buchanan, I thought that the key would be the strategic usage of dramatic pauses to accentuate key points. It’s not a bad strategy and, in fact, has merit, precedent, and basis for the Fall. However, more importantly, Obama inverted the traditional and brilliantly held 75,000 people and delegates in rapt attention, more and more as the speech wound on, beholden to listening to his ideas if not buying into them outright. Obama transfixed the audience, including the broader nationwide viewers and listeners, in such a transformative way as to make what could have been the grandiose into the intimate, the overarching into the personal, the great into the accessible. Obama did more than deliver great, grand, goal-oriented ideas to an American public and electorate (too often divergent) too long starving for them. Indeed, Obama invited us as Americans, as people, as sentient citizens, into a vision of something grander than what we’ve heretofore and without question recently experienced, something better than what we’ve endured, something more beatific than what we’ve pointless tolerated for nearly eight years.
Obama brilliantly inserted himself into history. Tonight, August 28, 2008, the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Obama delivered nothing short of one of the greatest speeches of the early 21st century. If you weren’t watching, listening, or reading, you missed history. I’m thankful that my family and I witnessed it.
Flush with details of a grander, more successful America, and despite my deep-seated concerns for what Democrats do that I have (to me rightly) long held, believed, and practiced, I just witnessed a Kennedy-like moment from our next president. By any sober comparison–and I’ll gladly debate and discuss with any and all readers–we just witnessed the coming-out party for our next, and first biracial, president. On November 3rd, 2008, I’m going to party like a rock star over the election of Barack Obama. He won’t be perfect by any means and, as the great scholar Cornel West has said, I’ll be a friend and critic to Obama. However, this guy should and will stomp McCain in November. I can’t wait to see it happen.
It will be long overdue that America elects a person of color president. Count on it in 67 days. Obama was more than presidential tonight. He was accessible at just the time when people demand greatness with the dispassionate distance to observe and absorb. That was his genius tonight–not simply sounding or presenting himself as presidential, but rather giving himself to the nation. It was masterful, as was this: “But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you.” Don’t count on McCain matching it by any means. Old pear-face will embarrass himself in a week in the Twin Cities. Tell me how McCain can match this in rhetorical quality or historical accuracy: “I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.” It won’t happen. [Edit: I neglected to add that this line of Obama’s reminded me of Frank the Sage’s line about the right’s primary trope–“Better living through fear.”]
Again, I have my own problems with Obama and have routinely criticized him from the left. But tonight was brilliant, detailed, and direct. McCain got his ass kicked before getting into the convention ring.