Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Night One with the Democrats: DNC 2008

I want to vote for Obama. I do. I am hoping that during the course of this convention, I can make that choice. Last night didn't do it for me though. It didn't work.

First, I was annoyed by the "American Voices" idea. Interspersed with the "real" speakers, there are lots of little nobodies who get to stand up there at the podium and say, "It is so unlikely that I would be here! I am so honored because I am just a county organizer!" Honey, there's a reason you're shocked to be up there. It's because you're not a good speaker, you have nothing interesting to say, and your story about how Barack Obama changed your life with his magical magic is nothing new or interesting.

Everyday Americans do not entertain or engage me, unless they are being made to eat llama guts or sing Stevie Wonder songs. Media, take note. I watch the political conventions to see roof-raising speeches delivered by politicians who are analogizing for their lives. If I wanted to hear average Americans tearfully testifying about Obama, I'd stop hanging up on those volunteers who keep calling my house. Political conventions are for rip-roaring, for spit-flicking, for fist-pumping.

Which brings us to Michelle Obama. Total, abject failure of a speech, in my opinion. You know when the pundits are calling your speech "well-delivered" and congratulating you on doing what you "needed" to do, you're in trouble. To me, the words she was saying were okay if a bit generic. However, the delivery was all high school public speaking coach. Too studied, too robotic. At no time did she look like she was speaking from the heart. She was performing. Now, hey, I don't blame her for practicing, for studying, etc. But she needed to show us something real, something moving, a little raw, a little spontaneous. There was nothing like that. It happened as it was supposed to happen, and there were no moments.

Wait, I am wrong. There were moments -- awkward, desperate, superfake moments during the live teleconference between Barack Obama, in someone's home in Kansas, and Michelle Obama, on stage with their two daughters. Today the media is calling it Huxtable-like. I found it completely horrifying. It was too scripted and not scripted enough. There was a difficult delay in hearing what they were saying to each other. The younger daughter, when Obama asked her, "How do you think Mom did?" replied, "She did good." I like kids as much as anyone else, and maybe it's for that reason that I kind of resent them being framed and delivered like that. There was nothing natural about the little girl asking, in Shirley Temple tones, "What state are you in, Daddy?" to lead him to his introduction of the family that was hosting him. There was nothing cute about the older child's mike getting cut off and her looking around nervously, unsure. The whole thing stank. By all means, bring them up on stage, let us ooo and awww and "How cute!" It's great that Obama has school-age children, and an awesome wife. But having them put on some kind of Neo-Rockwellian tableau was insulting to us and to them. Double plus ungood.

So, was there anything good about the evening? YES.

Benny donned his convention hat and eagerly watched the early parts of the program. We all shouted "McCain Was Wrong!" along with Obama's sister, and noted her use of the rhetorical device -- saying a repeated phrase that the audience can use to participate. Benny noticed and pointed out a *lot* of vocabulary words that he knew from our studies. We noted the "a man who" speech that Caroline Kennedy delivered about Teddy Kennedy. We noted the different "a man who" approach in the video that preceded Michelle Obama's speech. He hooted and cheered and jumped around. That made me feel happy. I think he is enjoying this, and will continue to enjoy the conventions this week and next week. It does my little political heart proud.

Instead of moving on to the next part of the class, since the conventions are only beginning, I think we will spend another week on political conventions. I'm going to be posting some additional activities after the Democrats are done and before the Republicans get rolling, and then we'll segue into producing our campaign materials next week.

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