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Or: Politico and its fellow-travelers are insane.  That was a brilliant fucking speech, and absolutely necessary.  Yes, Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama and the rest of our superstar lineup did us proud.  And it takes nothing away from what they accomplished to say that what the President added was as powerful, and as important: indeed, the keystone in the arch they built throughout the convention.  There's a reason everyone left the hall pumped, and not deflated.

He gave us the story.  And he told all America where we are in it.   Below the fleur-de-Kos, what that means and why it matters.

Here's the thing:  We're all familiar with the basic truth that human beings don't think in abstract or unconnected facts; rather, we think in stories.  Indeed, you can argue that there's no such thing as a fact -- or at least, a meaningful fact -- without some story attached to it.1  

It's easy -- and mistaken -- to see the story of the Presidential election of 2008 as being all, to coin a phrase, hopey-changey.  What happened in 2008 -- the election of a black man with a funny-sounding name to the Presidency -- was and is an extraordinary symbol of our nation's ability to grow up, however slowly and painfully: to become the people we want to be.  To be, well, America, the America of our hearts and dreams, and not that strange ugly place Dick Cheney represents.  It was intensely moving that we could do that (I'm not that old, and I will freely admit I never thought I'd see it in my own lifetime).  

Indeed, it was so moving that for too many people that became the story.  And if you tell it that way, every book, movie, and folk tale we've consumed all of our lives tells us that after Inauguration Day in 2009, it was supposed to be Happily Ever After.  That was the triumphal conclusion, the happy ending, the wedding march.  

Only if you see it that way (and only that way), you're primed to find everything that's happened since then to be a miserable failure.  Because after all it hasn't been Happily Ever After.  It's been a struggle practically every minute since then, and some of the struggles have been ugly, and some of them we've lost.  That's the narrative the Republicans want us to see, and it's all too easy for our mainstream pundits to see it that way too.  And it goes out that way to every voter who cares enough to pay mild attention to mainstream news sources, but who doesn't quite care enough to go out into the weeds to do their own information-gathering and analysis.  So letting this stand as the conventional narrative -- the one most people think they're living in, no matter how incorrectly -- is dangerous.  It's dangerous on an electoral level, and it's dangerous to how the majority analyzes the choices before us.  

What's important about this now is, that's the wrong story.  As important and as moving as electing a man of color named Barack Hussein Obama to our highest office was, that's a subplot.  This isn't, as it were, a political version of a romance novel.  We were never living a story where a new president -- any new president -- was going to fix everything the minute he was in office, or within the first four years of being in office.  We're closer to an epic here -- The Lord of the Rings (and Tolkien's version, not Jackson's), perhaps -- the kind of long struggle against indifference and hopelessness, as well as against evil, where putting the right leadership into place is critical for us to have any hope of victory, but is not by itself the happy ending.  

In this story, the last four years are nothing like a defeat.  They have been hard, but as every speaker at the convention reminded us, they have been studded with victories, major and minor.  We are, perhaps, as far along as we could have hoped to be, given the strength of the forces arrayed against us.

This is the middle of the book, of the film, of the story.  We know what it's like in Act Two -- we all do, the stories of our culture tell us what to expect here.  There are problems to be faced and resolved.  We're making progress, but the bad guys are still chasing us up trees and throwing rocks at us.  That doesn't mean we're not getting where we need and want to go.  It doesn't mean that this Presidency isn't working.  This is what happens in the middle.  In fact, it's what happens toward the end of the middle, when the turn is about to come.

That's what our President told us.  We're not living a fairy tale where his election could fix everything overnight.  We never were living there.  But the real story, the one that tells the truth of our times, is going about as well as a story about the real world, with all its hopes and sorrows and complexities, reasonably could.  The happy ending is something we all build together, and we're on the right road to it if we stick to it through the muck and confusion.  And best of all, it's a story about all of us, a story we participate in and help make, not one we sit back and watch other people tell.

He's the President now.  We elected the young leader who came out of nowhere four years ago, the new inspiring guy who stood up and said, "You can do this."  We're going to re-elect a leader with more grey in his hair, who's been through fire, who sees the road ahead and knows how we can get there; the one who knows in his bones how big some of the problems are, but who also knows that we can overcome them.

And who knows that working together to make it all happen will be the adventure of a lifetime, for every one of us who wants to be part of this story.  

That's the most important thing of all, and that's what the pundits have missed.  The President gave us context, and told us what story we're living through and where we are in it -- and it's a wonderful story, one where everyone who wants to be can be a hero, one where we are on the side of right, and one where victory and joy are within our grasp, if only after the kind of struggle you need to earn them.  Maybe it's childish of us as a nation, but we like feeling that just by being Americans, we're heroes and participants in a great and worthy adventure.  (Can I have a chant of, "USA! USA!")  And we're only human; we like to win, and many of us can't help a sneaking liking for being able to identify ourselves with a winning team.  Or nation.  Voters whose candidates can tell a story where all that is true are happy, enthusiastic voters, and also, we're voters who have a lot of motivation to make sure our candidate wins so we can go on living in that story.  

It was a bravura piece of work.  The more so, probably, because most of the people who heard it have no idea why it worked -- they just know it didn't have the fireworks of some of the other speeches, but it somehow made them feel good about where we are, and what we have left to do.  

And the people at Politico who really, really didn't like it?  Well.  I don't want to be unkind, but I'm guessing that when it comes down to it, they just don't want to go where we're going.  The vampires, they never do respond all that positively to daylight, you know?

1As a random example, consider a report that goes, "Today in Hypotheticalstan, clean energy from wind accounts for 5% of all power supplies."  We have no idea what that means -- not unless we know that the report goes on to say, "That's up from zero two weeks ago, when the new Wind Genie plans went up on the Internet, and people realized they could make high-efficiency wind turbines in their own villages from used wire and mylar.  Officials estimate that the country will be meeting 90% of its energy needs from wind by the end of this year, virtually eliminating power costs for all citizens and businesses."  Or that it says, "That's down from 32%; scientists say that the decline is caused by global climate change, which has altered the country's previously-reliable winds and led to entire months of dead calm."  Same fact; two entirely different meanings.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Agreed. (5+ / 0-)

    We should not take part in the horse race. I do think Clinton was the better orator. Nevertheless, the important point is that he put his skills into Obamas service, and that Obama, as you say, weaved the big story.

    He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

    by Sophie Amrain on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 09:22:57 AM PDT

    •  part of the pushback about how Obama's speech (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      flashmans ghost, Wee Mama, myboo

      wasn't that good has to do with many people's idea (helped quite a bit by the right wing, but the press piled on too) that was started in the last campaign that yes, Obama can give a great speech, but can he govern?

      Now if you can say somebody else gave a better specch than Obama then, to their minds, "well, what else does he have?"  

      Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

      by a gilas girl on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 10:28:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Which is interesting (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a gilas girl, emcneill, Wee Mama

        Especially when you consider that the overall theme of the convention, hammered home over and over, is that maybe he doesn't always give the most bully-pulpit value, but hot damn, the man can govern.  

        Objectively speaking, it's a remarkable record, particularly when you think about how much he's done in the face of unprecedented obstruction.

    •  Exactly. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      emcneill, sillia, devans00

      And that Clinton oratory mattered -- it got through to people, and because he was so damn entertaining, new people are still flocking to the Youtubes of the speech and then forwarding it to all their friends.  

      But even Clinton's masterful work (and spine-tingling conclusion) is stronger for the context.  The right setting, as it were, for the right jewel.

  •  They were going to pan it no matter what he said (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deep, xhale, emcneill, jan4insight, devans00
  •  Change happens at the grassroots level. (5+ / 0-)

    Republicans got this early and have used fear, prejudice, and religion for decades to motivate people to vote for their corporate agenda and move the country to the right.  Change is not trickle down - if we want to move the country back to the left, it has to happen the same way, by the people.  By leaders of all kinds who can inspire and motivate people to support being the best we can be, not the worst.

    “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

    by ahumbleopinion on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 09:32:57 AM PDT

  •  Which was why Empire is the best of the movies. (4+ / 0-)

    Clearly the Empire has won in the movie--Luke has lost his hand, Han is captured, the Rebels are in hiding.

    But it closes with hope.  Hope that things are about to turn.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 09:34:33 AM PDT

    •  And.... (0+ / 0-)
      Hope that things are about to turn.
      And they did....things turned out quite well for everyone, as I remember....(even Darth Vader in a sorta convoluted way).

      I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose....AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

      by Lilyvt on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 09:48:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have to say I thought Obama's speech (0+ / 0-)

    was the weakest of the bunch. It did little to inspire, sounded more like a State of the Union speech. A flat SOTU speech at that. We needed less Sasha and Malia and more "here's what the next four years are going to look like.... "  Obama did not need to hit a home run, but he barely hit a single.  No big worries, though.  Many on that stage DID hit home runs!  Some excellent speeches!  I just hope he's more "on his game" come debate time!

    •  You're clearly not alone. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tam in CA, devans00

      And yet, it surprises me every time I hear this.  No speech (or any other kind of communication) is going to work well for every member of the hoped for audience, of course; we're individuals, not robots, and that's a good thing.

      But while I enjoyed and appreciated all of the speeches I heard -- best DNC ever, in fact, I'm kind of blown away -- Obama's was the one that gave me chills.

    •  Obama's speech sealed the deal for me (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      myboo, mali muso, greatferm, devans00

      He has always been good at drawing pictures with words. But for a man with the weight of governing this great country to speak as candidly as he did, blew me away. I sensed humility mixed with courage and that courage was to do the right thing for everyone. Even those who would spit on him.

      The speech was masterful in both content and delivery. I'm not sure what everyone else expected, the man is a great orator. But it's his sense of purpose that moves me. He never quits on us, never gives up. No matter how much hand wringing that goes on, it's as if he sees things that I can't see and just keeps moving forward. He leaves a path in his wake that is solid enough for me to follow and I appreciate that.

      He's not perfect, nobody is, but he is my President. Obama 2012.

      by emcneill on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 11:18:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Remember the audience (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emcneill, Tam in CA, devans00

    There are two and only two important audiences for the speech, and the speech was aimed clearly at both. One was swing voters. They are not going to be inspired by a bunch of platitudes and promises, and they are a bit skeptical of Romney.  They can be reassured by hearing  truth and competence, and that is what Obama was projecting.

    Then there is the base, some of whom are less enthusiastic than they were four years ago. They need to be motivated to get out and vote and tell everyone else to vote. They needed to be told that they can't expect the president to do it for them. If they want change, they have to act.

    For the first group, the most important line was to remind people that Obama is the president, not a candidate. For the second, what was important was telling people that we represent hope, and can't depend on the president to do it for us. And to ask for our vote.

    So it might not have been the most feel-good speech, but instead at times felt like medicine. And that is what was needed.

  •  Obama lead up to 4 with gallup today (0+ / 0-)
  •  PBO's speech was tailored to a wider audience: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Hamlet
  •  Act II of a Fairy Tale... (0+ / 0-)

    Your post reminded me of one of my favorite musicals: Into the Woods with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Act I ends with the fairy tale characters 'living happily ever after'. Act II forces all of the characters to face up to the choices they've made and ends with a litany of the lessons they learned in their journey.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Sapere aude: Dare to know; to think for yourself; to be wise. I. Kant "What is Enlightenment?"

    by Sapere aude on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 11:27:02 AM PDT

  •  He is so smart (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    President Obama truly does treat us as adults.  This was a speech intended for thought and given by a deep thinker.  It was not a meant for immediate gratification.  He left those speeches for others. His speech has had me in my own thoughts  in examination of my place in the community, the party, and am I doing my best in those things and more.  It blew me away and is still blowing in my thoughts and making me want to be a better democrat and person.

  •  Great diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You did a fine job of describing how I feel.  I got the same understanding from the President's speech.  I felt more solid in my belief after his speech than from what others call the two best speeches.

  •  I agree ... (0+ / 0-)

    I loved Michelle's speech -- I legit cried the last five minutes of it.   I also found Bill's speech rousing, but it was the President's speech that moved me the most, that I'll remember most and by the end of his speech, I was crying.  

    Ranking my top 2012 DNC speeches --


    We all made this journey for a reason. -- President Barack Obama (February 10, 2007)

    by arabian on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 02:14:47 PM PDT

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