Do they ever. Until the Democratic convention got into prime time, speaker after speaker went to the podium to hail the Democratic Party sacrament, to the point that one would have thought that the source of most woes in America was an epidemic of conception, rather than say, oh, jobs. The focus shifted a little when primetime coverage began, but by that time I’d dozed off.
I wasn’t the only one to notice that my prediction for Abortion-Palooza had come true. New York Times columnist David Brooks told PBS that his one “cavil” was that voters want to hear about jobs and the economy, not taxpayer-subsidized abortion on demand:
“You know, you’re electing someone — we’re going to spend four more years with these people — and after this speech, I think a lot of people will say, ‘Yeah, I think I kind of do,’” Brooks said.
“The one cavil I will have … is this speech has — [it] reinforces something we’ve heard all night, which was how much the crowd goes crazy and how passionate they are about abortion and gay marriage and the social issues. And tonight has been about that.
“And to me it should have been a lot more about economics, growth, and debt. And that better be the job of day two and day three because they did not do it here.”
That’s not a “cavil,” it’s a legitimate — and inescapable — observation. Brooks seemed mighty pleased to have stumped the PBS panel with that word, but he chose it poorly. The point of an incumbent’s convention is to demonstrate the progress made on issues that matter to voters and assume the high ground over one’s opponent. It’s difficult to see how Democrats could have made Barack Obama more irrelevant and small last night.
Because I fell asleep on the program, I missed Michelle Obama’s speech, which seems to have been very well received (I read it this morning instead). But even the First Lady didn’t get the memo on issues. In her lengthy speech, Mrs. Obama only devoted two sentences to jobs — and one of those was talking about how her husband gave up a good-paying job to be a community organizer. The word “economy” only appeared twice, in the middle of the speech. “Debt” only gets mentioned twice as well, and only in the context of student-loan debt.
As the spouse of a candidate, it’s Mrs. Obama’s job to humanize her husband, just as Ann Romney did for hers, and that puts these speeches into a different category than those of the politicians who take the dais. But shouldn’t the First Lady have humanized her husband by emphasizing that he’s focused on the same issues as voters in this election — the economy, jobs, the federal deficit? After all, unlike Mitt Romney, Obama’s been in office for four years of saturation coverage, and humanizing him on family life after nearly five years of intense media adulation on that front is a bit redundant.
Those Obama supporters I have in my Twitter feed were high-fiving last night in celebration of Day 1 of Abortion-Palooza. They were, after all, the intended audience. I suspect that everyone other than the True Believers spent more time headscratching than high-fiving.