Dems Needed Strong Convention To Up Enthusiasm
When thousands of Democrats descended on Charlotte the weekend of Labor Day, the spirit of the party faithful could very well be summed up by the title of a wonderful song by Joe Sample and Lalah Hathaway, "When Your Life Was Low."
Political conventions really are highly orchestrated affairs where nothing is left to chance (well, except when your party platform omits God and doesn't name Jerusalem as the capital of Israel). But for Democrats, it served more as a three-day therapeutic retreat to boost a party disillusioned by the heavy weight of an economy that contributed to massive losses at the polls in 2010.
Talking to a number of Democrats early this week, they were apprehensive, hopeful, and some were scared. Other than the debacle of Clint Eastwood's mind-boggling speech, the GOP put on a very well-organized convention that tore into President Barack Obama's economic policies.
Polls consistently showed Republicans more enthusiastic about their candidate, Mitt Romney, than Democrats for Obama. His handling of the economy has taken a major hit, even as Obama's likeability rating trumps Mitt's.
"When your life was low,
You had nowhere to go.
People turned their backs on you,
And everybody said that you were through."
It all began Tuesday with fiery, focused and fierce speeches by Newark Mayor Cory Booker; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro; and the ultimate closer, Michelle Obama.
That was followed Wednesday by an electric speech by Kansas City Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver on Wednesday that wasn't shown nationwide but had the delegates behaving as if they were in a revival. Elizabeth Warren's speech wasn't a barn burner but was serviceable in exciting the crowd for the ultimate closer, President Bill Clinton. The room was on fire as the former president tore into the plans of Romney and Ryan with the precision of a surgeon.
Then it was on to Thursday, where Rep. John Lewis, the last surviving speaker at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, focused the hall on the GOP's voter suppression efforts; former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm delivered one of the most animated speeches in memory; Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry shook off the boring label and swung hard at Romney-Ryan; and they were followed by a strong, presidential speech by President Obama.
While many in the media have decried his speech as not having the normal oratory flair as others he's delivered, it's critical to understand that it was an in-your-pew speech that connected in a much more personal way than he has done in the past. Everything ain't champagne and caviar. Regular folks eat meat, rice and gravy!
"I took you in, made you strong again
Put you back together.
Out of all the dreams you left along the way,
You left me shining."
The inspiration of 2008 and the theme of hope and change clearly couldn't be duplicated. The beauty of such a message is that it is undefinable. You can have 1,000 people believe in it. The problem is they also desire 1,000 different expectations, and even if you make 60 percent of them happy, you're still facing a disappointed lot.
This week's convention served as much-needed reset for disillusioned Dems. They were reminded of who the are and what they stand for, and the aggressive tone the delegates took when issues such as a woman's right to choose were raised points to a defense of Democratic ideals, even if you disagree.
"Now you're doing well
From stories I hear tell.
You own the world again.
Everyone's your friend."
Now that the marker has been set for the next 60 days of campaigning, the question is whether the three days of Democratic unity in Charlotte can be bottled up and spread across the nation, especially in battleground states like Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Wisconsin.
This election will come down to who gets their base voters out; and to do that, they must care. On the Republican side they care enough not to like President Obama to drive their folks to the polls. Now we'll see if the Democrats' fits of political depression can be shaken off after the show of rhetorical force in Charlotte and a renewed vigor from the constituencies that vaulted Obama to the White House four years ago.
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and author of the book "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin." Please visit his website at RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.