How Did Obama Do?

09.05.12

You Aced It, Michelle Obama

Dems pulled off two triumphs on the first night of the DNC. First, they deftly mirrored the diversity of America. And then the first lady knocked her speech out of the park.

In the words of that old rocker Rod Stewart: “Every picture tells a story, don’t it?”

On the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, the TV cameras spent almost as much time focused on the faces of the conventioneers as they did on the faces of those delivering keynote speeches. And for good reason: images of the crowd at political conventions can be as important as the oratory.

Meanwhile, the contrast with the crowd at Tampa’s Republican National Convention—virtually a sea of white faces—is telling, and brings the two political parties into sharper relief than any words that even the most gifted of speakers can articulate.

The images from Tampa showed an America that was, while the images from Charlotte show an America that is, and forever will be—and no amount of voter disenfranchisement or political bickering can forestall the fast-changing demographic makeup of the country. Always an egalitarian and racially-inclusive affair, this year’s DNC is obviously attempting to outdo previous efforts along these lines—and succeeding wildly.

And while speaker after speaker thundered and railed at the Republicans and their agenda, they fully realize the difficulty the party faces of having to climb an 8-plus percent unemployment mountain to attain victory, something no other sitting president in history has been able to accomplish.

Video screenshot

Watch Michelle Obama's speech.

Even as former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland called President Obama an “economic patriot” and cited the bailout of the auto industry — using the figures from the Lordstown General Motors Plant where the popular Chevy Cruz is now being produced in record numbers — as one of the current administration’s key accomplishments, still lurking in the background are recent dismal statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

In a front-page, top of the fold article published on Labor Day, the Cleveland Plain Dealer cited figures that show the jobs that are being created in this recovery are not in the oft-mentioned (by both political parties) “middle class.” Instead, labor statistics show “six of the 10 fastest-growing occupations are lower-paying, most with median hourly pay less than $2 above Ohio’s minimum wage of $7.70.” The study showed that three other fast-growing fields have median wages above $30.  The only category that fell into the middle class was that of “multiple tool setter.”

So it was highly predictable that First Lady Michelle Obama would focus her remarks on the human side of her husband’s presidency rather than the economic. She spoke — very softly at times—of the “many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined…I’ve seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are—it reveals who you are.”

Michelle thereby revealed who she is: her husband’s very accomplished helpmate.

Her magnificent speech brought to mind the words the great W.E.B. Du Bois wrote over a hundred years ago: “But what of black women?...I most sincerely doubt if any other race of women could have brought its fineness up through so devilish a fire.” Amen to that.