Poor Bill. He did have a hell of a hard act to follow with Hillary's glorious speech last night setting the bar so high, and I don't think the whole of his oratory was quite up to that pitch-perfect piece, but what we heard tonight was vintage Big Dog. I was glad to hear him reclaim the theme of Hope, which is authentically his, the condition of his birth, not copied and pinned to a sleeve. I was cheering along at home with his standing ovation, delighted by the delight he took in that reception. I roared and pounded the desk, "Yes! Yes! Yes!", as he mercilessly took down the Republicans point after point.
Some people said his heart wasn't in it when he was praising Obama. Maybe, maybe not. Bill sounded as sincere as any of the other speakers and was far more compelling because he came up with reasons that were more than just "vote for our nominee cuz he's so kewl." Name me one other political figure who has suffered such defamation and yet who can look any audience straight in the eye and unswervingly advocate for their opponent. The only person to match Bill is Hillary, and that is not a mistake.
Look at their speeches in the last 24 hours. They are a pair, just like the speakers, and they provide a profound lesson to Democrats.
Hillary's presentation was crisper, more on topic, much like the woman herself. As I said yesterday, she presented the political case for why we are Democrats. She looked at the identity "Democrat" with a clear eye and did not flinch away from making a claim that this was something worth fighting for. She defined a Democrat as someone who acts, who accepts duties and obligations, and who is not dissuaded by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. In the most glowing terms, Hillary explained why being a partisan was a good thing. To be a Democrat is to take upon oneself the identity of the outcast, the rejected, the oppressed, the disdained, to welcome the outrage of the well-off and comfortable, and never surrender to the demons of stupidity. Her performance showed how far the party leadership has fallen from their obligations to that duty, yet also saying, "It is still here, still possible, because I, too, am still here. Now is the time to act." It is not even a choice. No "or else," "you'd better," "last chance," or "you'll be sorry." They simply must lay down their obstinate opposition and be Democrats.
This is not, as some detractors and disappointed followers have said, weakness or capitulation. Anyone who thinks this has it exactly bass ackwards. The frantic machinations of the Obamacans show that they know who has the power to preserve them from their own follies. They need her in a way she does not, has never needed them. Their greatest fear is that she will not intervene.
Bill meandered a bit at the start, trying a little too hard to counter objections to Obama the person. He did a better job of this than anyone else I have heard speak except Hillary, but it was the wrong kind of cadence for this actor. I read an opinion piece recently (can't locate link) that said as long as the campaign is about Obama as a person, he will lose, because there is not much there to talk about. I'm going to resist the obvious snark line and shift the emphasis of that observation. If you are a Democrat, if a campaign is made small, individual, personal, reduced to the parts and proclivities that make up the candidate, you will lose. If you can be reduced to a cackling laugh, a misrepresented statement, a bad land deal, an awkward mannerism, you are toast. It is part of the overall Republican push to atomize people, needs, issues and interests, to reduce them to mere opinion or a personal failing, and thereby disguise the relationships of power that can help or hurt us. Bill's comparison of Obama to himself as the nominee was not just a generous gift to Obama, but a warning to the Democrats not to fall for the trap of morality politics that took out Gore and Kerry.
The change that came over the Big Dog in his speech is when he turned away from examination of the particular candidate and launched into his whirlwind indictment of Republican ineptitude and catastrophic governance. Bill Clinton laid out in no uncertain terms what the hell a Democrat does and how we affect the entire world for the better. This is why you are a Democrat! Not to make nice-nice with the extremist loons in the opposition, but to deliver the goods. Goods like increased wages and reduced inequality, real health care and fewer corporate profits, more security and less international resentment. Bill Clinton made clear that the subject of politics is exactly that - politics. Policy. Partisanship. Standing the fuck up for what you know is right and refusing to capitulate to the nervous nellies who can't think of anything except the fucking. Daring the bastards to shut down the govenemnt, or try to impeach you, and coming away the winner. Doing right by people and being the most loved president alive. Beating out most of the dead guys, too.
Watching the pair of them deliver the most powerful speeches of the convention was a one-two punch. They made the case for what it means to be a Democrat. The opposition to Bill and Hillary is not that they have failed, but that they are all too effective at building a party that can fight. They have demonstrated what the Democratic Party could be if it believes in itself and its core values.
The Republican nightmare is that their hate-drenched spell will wear off and the CDS afflicted fools on the Left will get over their idiocy and embrace the Clintons for what they are - the core of the Democratic Party. The psychotic flight from what these two have done to defend and rebuild a party steamrolled and demoralized by the Movement Conservatives denies the Democrats their own best legacy. If you are on Obama's side and you cut out the Clintons, you are carving out the heart of Democratic power. The roar that greeted both of them was not from a winnowed and managed crowd of loyalists. It was from whatever Democrat showed up. Why would you want to throw this away?
Hillary and Bill walk onto a stage and the energy goes through the roof. They are politically effective, which is why they are attacked so savagely by enemies from without and rivals from within. They speak to what it means to be a Democrat. They believe in this party in a way that the current leadership does not. The plea/threat for the Clintons to go all out for those who can barely stand to say the word "Democrat", let alone "partisan Democrat", betrays the the understanding that this is so.
The conflicted reaction to the Clintons from the Stevensonian elite has a few parts. One is just plain and simple jealousy, the kind that always attends successful people. Another, particularly for the younger crew who don't remember Reagan clearly, is that they have lived in a CDS saturated media market for most of their lives and it's difficult to think outside that narrative. Another is disappointment that they aren't Superman and Wonder Woman, and that they haven't lived up to their own ideals and expectations every day of their lives. The biggest part of it is fear that if you associate too closely with these people who are at the center of the unhinged hatred of a fanatical and violent opposition, you will also come under attack. Who would want to be treated that way? Why not stand by the sidelines and whistle while the attacks go on, rather than walk in and become a casualty? Better yet, why not try to placate the Right by joining the attacks and trying to be more reasonable than these stubborn hicks from Arkansas who keep insisting on things like gay rights and healthcare?
It's about time the party embraced its toughest, strongest best partisans. Be Clinton Democrats.