Barack Obama came away from Charlotte master of his party. The so-called enthusiasm gap was no way in evidence as Democrats cheered speaker after speaker. Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and, of course, the president rallied and energized a party which we had been reassured by punditry was in the doldrums.
Now the mugwumps at the Washington Post tried to play it down, but early polls indicated a brisk bump. Even when the unemployment numbers went down, they were seen as "disappointing." The stock market didn't seem to think so, soaring 200 points on Thursday and continuing the rally after the jobs report. Well, alas, this is the outfit that goes on about Simpson-Bowles and bewails the fact that sturdy types like John Anderson and Paul Simon never became presidents.
What they missed was a party no longer on the fence. On the social issues there was unity, on immigration there was unity. For the first time in a generation, the Democratic party spoke in a single progressive voice. No blue dog chatter or Joe Lieberman-style whining, but a strong endorsement of a forward-leading platform.
Although Obama's acceptance address had none of the flair of Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 speech, the convention ended, like FDR, the legacy of a mushy, rural-based Democratic Party. It was the completion of what 1968 started, a party diverse in membership and united in purpose. On the floor of the convention, the faces were of all races, nationalities and creeds. The smiles were evident, in contrast to the scowling angry tea partyers of Tampa and, more importantly, they loved their nominee again contrasting nicely with the GOP's shotgun wedding.
Obama's address in Charlotte was better than the Denver effort in 2008 because he did not have to appease blue dogs. No rattling on about "clean coal" or appealing to the worst instincts of the so-called heartland, it was an appeal to stay the course until an economic plan that was working. Preliminary figures for September showed a promising weekly gain. This of course will be evident in October. While Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promised miracles aplenty with a dearth of facts, Obama dealt with economic realities.
Like FDR in 1933, Obama inherited an economy in the tank. He stopped the erosion and gradually brought unemployment from nearly 11 percent to 8.1 percent. Republicans who barely mentioned George W. Bush in Tampa, nevertheless accused Obama of blaming the former president for economic problems. Well, if the shoes fit. But Clinton's point that no president could correct the problem quickly is true. Moreover, Republican governors with their slash and burn approach to public employment have prolonged the unemployment problem. Private sector jobs have grown by 30 percent.
Republicans have had one goal and one goal only since taking the House in 2010-to frustrate and defeat the president. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said it was his top priority, and he has been true to his word. The hatred for Obama has created a situation in the GOP that has made it lose its way. If Tampa seemed incoherent and chaotic, it was largely a result of the "Obama wants it, we oppose" it attitude. The party is not conservative; it represents more a nihilistic jumble.
Democrats projected a progressive, confident face to America. Like the 1940s hit "The House I live in," "all races all creeds that's America to me" was the theme. Obama enunciated the positive vision of a nation untrammeled by local interests and personal greed. His goal was to once more complete the job of culturally uniting the country. In Charlotte, the Democratic party went along way in this direction.