Thursday, July 28, 2016

Obama's DNC Speech

Wow: Obama's DNC speech--just what I was wishing someone, anyone would say. Actually, I have more nuanced notes than that, but there is really a lot that's good about it:

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.  We need to keep making our streets safer and our criminal justice system fairer; our homeland more secure, and our world more peaceful and sustainable for the next generation.  We’re not done perfecting our union, or living up to our founding creed – that all of us are created equal and free in the eyes of God.
The preamble's more perfect union does not imply that it's ever going to be perfect, just that it will be an improvement. It's good to seek improvement, bad to seek perfection.

This is a more fundamental choice – about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.
Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward. 
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.  
The self-government stuff pervades the speech and is great. Although I'm not really sure that presidential elections are about self-government at all. No one's saying I'll do less as president and let more up to the other branches and to state and local government.

He's respectful, though, about the debates between Republicans and Democrats, arguing that it's good (or at least not bad) to have a diversity of viewpoints. (I'm reading Chantal Mouffe's The Democratic Paradox at the moment and that's her point, too.)

Also, kudos for mentioning that Trump isn't conservative and for advocating conversation, rather than embattled withdrawing.
There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten; parents who wonder whether their kids will have the same opportunities we had. 
An acknowledgement of the Trump supporters' legitimate complaints. Although he could have taken them more seriously and suggested some solutions. He quickly moves on to the greatness of the American people.
More inspiring stuff on self-government:

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.  Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago; We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, We, the People, can form a more perfect union.
That’s who we are.  That’s our birthright – the capacity to shape our own destiny.  That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny and our GIs to liberate a continent.  It’s what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot, and marchers to cross a bridge in Selma, and workers to organize and fight for better wages.
America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us.  It’s always been about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.
The sad part is that it's not clear that self-government is really happening much in the U.S. anymore. And he doesn't say what Hilary will do to encourage it. Self-government isn't something that will float all by itself into the future. That's Tocqueville's point. Self-government, incidentally, is more than: "When we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen." And self-government isn't just Congress making laws. 

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; families that came here for the same reasons our forebears came – to work, and study, and make a better life, in a place where we can talk and worship and love as we please.  

If you want to fight climate change, we’ve got to engage not only young people on college campuses, but reach out to the coal miner who’s worried about taking care of his family, the single mom worried about gas prices.

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