I’ve been percolating on the Obama speech for a few days, trying to decide exactly what I think about it. These things take time, you know, and should never be hurried. I’ve also been arguing over various bits with people sporadically over the last couple of days, with opinion fairly evenly split between “meh” (my father) and “Obama is the closest thing that I have ever felt to what people describe when they talk about faith” (my top-secret contact at the convention).
So, how did I feel about it, as someone who is not intending to vote for Obama?
I was pretty ambivalent by the end. I felt like I needed to listen to it, because it was a pretty historic moment, the first black man accepting a nomination for President from a major party. That’s the kind of moment that you want to be able to tell people you heard live on the radio in 40 years, you know? And I tell you what, Obama is an amazing orator. It was a pretty well-written speech, but he really delivered, and if I wasn’t so staunchly opposed to him, I might have even been converted.
Although the fireworks at the end nearly gave me a heart attack until the radio announcer said that they were fireworks. Pretty much every time that man appears in public now, I fear for his life.
I thought that he did a pretty good job of touching on the major issues in his speech, but there were a few notable points I was disappointed on:
- Nothing strong on the environment. Sure, he promoted green tech, which is good, but he didn’t really push the fact that we need to do something about the environment. Now. Starting with tougher environmental legislation and a serious effort on environmental cleanup and enforcement of such regulation.
- No strong stance on gay marriage. Yes, he said that “gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination,” but that’s not the same thing as marriage equality. And, of course, nothing for trans/queer/etc, which I didn’t really expect, but still, sad. Maybe you say that’s too much to hope for, but I say that women were told that the right to vote was too much to hope for, once.
- He didn’t take a powerful right to choose stance, either, referring to abortion more obliquely, and that kind of bummed me out.
However, there were also some things I really liked.
- I loved “And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have the exact same opportunities as your sons,” because equal pay is a major issue for me, and it was a nice nod to feminists in the audience.
- I also appreciated the talk on education, although “accountability” sounds suspiciously like NCLB (ugh) to me. And I dug this: “And we will keep our promise to every young American: If you commit to serving your community or our country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.” This is something I’ve been lobbying for for years.
- “America, we are a better country than this.” YEAH DOG is what I said to Tristan when he said that. It was a nice bit of rhetoric, and so was the followup: “We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty, that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.” Again, I say, YEAH DOG.
I wasn’t a fan of the “look at me pushing my working class angles here” stuff, which felt really stiff and false to me. Also, I obviously wasn’t hugely supportive of the tough on terror pandering, although I understand why he included these issues in his speech.
In a lot of ways, the speech was politics as usual, but there were a few pieces of soaring rhetoric in there that were just outstanding. If that’s the real Obama, the Obama in the corners of that speech, the Obama who knows how to use language that way…that’s a man I’d want to vote for. The man who references Langston Hughes in political speeches. The man who really believes that this country can be fixed. The man who says “ENOUGH” and means it.