R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT

DNC: Day 1
NOTE: As I do focus on things besides politics (family, music, work, playing the old “Doom” computer games), I won’t be watching much of the conventions besides each night’s featured speaker. As such, that’s what I’ll be commenting on.

By most accounts, Michelle Obama’s speech last night (VodPodded at right) was a winner… and I have to agree with that consensus. Though her speech was devoid of much policy — who says first ladies are supposed to be wonks, anyway? — it was stirring, and in a particularly American way. That’s the key for the convention, it seems: To cast Barack Obama as an American story, countering suggestions and implications that he’s somehow Other; to cast him as a regular guy, as opposed to some Harvard elite (have we forgotten that W. went to Yale?).

She spoke of her middle-class upbringing, her father who battled through disability to help raise his children and lead his family. She spoke of her own journey through law school and a posh law firm, eventually landing her back at home (“baking cookies,” as Hillary once famously said), raising her two daughters. She seemed genuine, and genuinely proud of her country and her story.

This is all coming, mind you, from a 27-year-old white guy. Shelley, too, seemed impressed; she wasn’t weeping or cheering, but for a conservative such as herself, the impact was substantial and could provide an explanation for the strategy of the Obama camp in this unconventional convention.

The pundits are arguing that the convention should be more negative, more hard-hitting on Bush (who’s not running!) and McCain, who fights spitwads with scud missiles, like this one last night on “The Tonight Show”:

LENO: Welcome back, Sen. McCain, for one million dollars, how many houses do you have? (Jay laughs, McCain squirms and chuckles)

McCAIN: You know, could I just mention to you, Jay, and a moment of seriousness. I spent five and a half years in a prison cell, without—I didn’t have a house, I didn’t have a kitchen table, I didn’t have a table, I didn’t have a chair. And I spent those five and a half years, because—not because I wanted to get a house when I got out.

But they seem to forget that Obama won the primary on a positive message of hope and change, leaving the sniping Hillary in a dust of her own making.

Truly, it was a historic moment for blacks in this country… people who, despite MLK’s speech 45 years ago, never thought they’d see this moment. Even Juan Williams, an NPR contributer who is decidedly conservative and who intends (though he admits the emotional pull in the voting booth will be strong) to vote for McCain, wouldn’t try to partisan-parse the speech. (UPDATE: Youtube deleted the video, but he seems genuinely stirred by the thought of a black president, and moved by the positive, patriotic message of Michelle’s speech.)

A reader of Sullivan’s writes:

I am a 36 year old African American woman. I have two girls ages 10 and 8. The country does not get the full import of this moment. My daughters and I sat together along with my husband to watch Michelle Obama tonight. Mr. Sullivan, we were all in tears. This is a day that cannot be fully described. This country has systematically oppressed Black women for centuries. My ancestors were slaves and my great, great, great, grandmothers raped and treated as property. My daughters have very few Black women to look up to in popular culture as role models. They do not feel seen, they are not held up as the standards of American beauty. We shed tears tonight as a family because Michelle (with her elegance and grace) is holding all of us up with her. You don’t understand the burden that she bears.

Regardless of the outcome — and despite how cliché it may sound — this is truly a groundbreaking election.


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