In his DNC speech, President Obama kept it 100
In his primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, President Obama was the standard bearer of hope his supporters voted for eight years ago and the optimistic bridge builder that was introduced to the national stage four years before that.
In an election year marked by divisions, hate and racial strife, the commander-in-chief stayed positive. And he provided the friendliest, most ubpeat beatdown of Donald Trump we’ll find this campaign season.
“A lot’s happened over the years. And while this nation has been tested by war and recession and all manner of challenge – I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your President, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America. How could I not be – after all we’ve achieved together?” he said.
President Obama listed the achievements of his tenure in office, such as overcoming the worst recession in 80 years, enacting health care reform, protecting consumers from fraud, reestablishing relations with Cuba and bringing about marriage equality.
While touting his successes, the president did not overdo it, emphasizing unfinished business. “So tonight, I’m here to tell you that yes, we still have more work to do. More work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a decent retirement; for every child who needs a sturdier ladder out of poverty or a world-class education; for everyone who hasn’t yet felt the progress of these past seven and a half years,” he said, noting that the nation must make its criminal justice system fairer and live up to its creed that everyone is created equal and free.
In that vein, President Obama laid out the stakes in this not-so-typical political season, in which the voters are presented with a “fundamental choice about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.” He took righteous stabs at the Republican party and its front man and pointed out the clear contrasts with the Democrats. “But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world,” Obama told the convention crowd.
“There were no serious solutions to pressing problems – just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate. And that is not the America I know,” he added.
“And then there’s Donald Trump. He’s not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated,” the president insisted. “Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice? If so, you should vote for him.”
“That is another bet that Donald Trump will lose. Because he’s selling the American people short,” Obama said, offering that America is already great and strong and urging people to reject fear and cynicism. “We are not a fragile or frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled.”
In endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, Obama said the Democratic Party is in good hands. He called his former rival a fighter who “never, ever quits” and the most qualified person ever to run for the White House. He said that Clinton understands that things are not black and white in this diverse nation, that compromise rather than demonizing is necessary in order to get things done in a democracy, and that we must fight for our principles and common ground.
“Hillary knows we can work through racial divides in this country when we realize the worry black parents feel when their son leaves the house isn’t so different than what a brave cop’s family feels when he puts on the blue and goes to work; that we can honor police and treat every community fairly,” Obama said, adding that Clinton understands that acknowledging the nation’s festering racial problems does not make race relations worse but makes things better. “Hillary knows we can insist on a lawful and orderly immigration system while still seeing striving students and their toiling parents as loving families, not criminals or rapists,” he insisted.
In contrast to the divisions created by the other side, and the notion that there is a “real America” that must be restored, he pointed to the values of his grandparents from Kansas, which were the same as the values of the First Lady Michelle Obama’s family, and immigrants of various background in this country.
Moreover, the president gave the public their marching orders on Wednesday night. He reminded them that democracy is not a spectator sport and something we must want “not just during an election year, but all the days in between.”
“So if you agree that there’s too much inequality in our economy, and too much money in our politics, we all need to be as vocal and as organized and as persistent as Bernie Sanders’ supporters have been,” President Obama said. “We all need to get out and vote for Democrats up and down the ticket, and then hold them accountable until they get the job done.”
So, wanting change in the justice system means voting not just for president but for mayors, sheriffs, D.A.s and state legislators and working with police and protesters. And fighting gun violence, he believes, means that everyone must be as vocal as the gun lobby.
President Obama had no easy feat in his final convention speech as president. He had to unite the party, put Trump on blast, unite the country and pass the baton. And he succeeded. But then again, few people would be up to the task.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter @davidalove