The Best (and Worst) Speeches at the Democratic National Convention
September 7, 2012
by Ric Albano
With the Democratic National Convention wrapped up and President Obama off into the general election, I thought I’d reflect on some of the best and worst speeches given this past week in Charlotte. Being a conservative and a Romney supporter, I tried to strip away the message from the actual presentation and how effective I feel it will be going forward. Unlike at the Republican Nation Convention in Tampa last week, most speeches were very Obama-centric, which is really what these “live brochures” are all supposed to be about. But on the flip side, this also magnifies the difference between the more independent-minded Republicans and groupthink-oriented Democrats.
Another interesting thing I noticed was the irony of Republicans were a bit more positive than Democrats, when they’re the party out of power. This has truly been an absolutely weird election and I just expect it to get weirder.
1. Michelle Obama – The first lady gave, by far, the most effective speech of this convention. Soft and heart-warming, her speech connected with the audience like no other. Filled with platitudes and questionable analogies, Michelle’s delivery was much better than content of speech, but she did manage to coin an interesting phrase when she said, “being President doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are”.
2. Bill Clinton – Wednesday was a terrible night of speeches overall, which made the night’s final speech, by the former President, a bit refreshing. Loaded with oodles of stats along with a generous amount of ad-libbing, Clinton seemed to lose a lot of the crowd at times, but from my perspective, I thought this master of word manipulation left much more room for interpretation than your ordinary political rant.
3. Deval Patrick – If you’re a fan of old-style, blustering political pontificating, then you should have loved the speech by the Massachusetts governor. He made a very empassioned, unambiguous, Ted Kennedy-like speech on what the Democratic base believes and implored that, “it’s time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe”, and “we don’t need to follow polls or listen to pundits.”
4. Joe Biden – OK, full disclosure, I did write the article on America’s Dumbest Vice President last year and have derided the overt plagiarist and soft racist many times since. But hey, Biden talked for nearly half an hour last night and didn’t mention the President’s “big stick” nor did he talk about the number of Indians at the 7/11 nor did he try to count the number of letters in the word “jobs”. So this has got to be a net positive.
5. Jennifer Granholm – Looking like a cross between the drunken aunt who got the microphone at a wedding and just rambled on and the Dwight Shute character from The Office who took some bad advice on how to deliver an effective speech, the former Michigan governor left a lasting impression on convention goers. Although there’s no doubt that the grown-ups back stage were horrified, it’s likely that the consumers in the audience will be talking about this for years.
1. Martin O’Malley – With his leading of the church-like recital of “President Obama is moving America forward not bacK” and a totally flat delivery, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley laid a total, rotten egg. This came on the Tuesday following O’Malley’s faux pas on the Sunday shows where he went against the party line and said Americans are NOT better off than four years ago and the complete reversal on Monday when he said “of course they were.”
2. Sandra Fluke – I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to put Fluke’s speech in prime time. She was nervous and unsure of her own words (which were all quite absurd) and had the juvenile complaint about how Mitt Romney didn’t stick up for her when she was verbally attacked. Well, Mitt Romney never stood up for me anytime I was verbally attacked either.
3. Rahm Emanuel – Once considered a behind-the-scenes genius as chief-of-staff for two presidents, Emanuel has lost a lot of gravitas as mayor of Chicago while his city is infested with crime and intenral labor strife. His speech was stiff and nervous and he didn’t give any specifics on the assertions he made.
4. Elizabeth Warren – Looking and acting like the physical personification of the “nanny state”, the Massachusettes senate candidate’s speech on Wednesday was more like a flat lecture from a marginal professor. The original architect of the theory behind “you didn’t build it” focused on rather trivial and mundane subjects throughout her speech.
5. Barack Obama – In all honesty, the President’s speech on Thursday may not have been considered one of the worst if given by someone else. But with his history of great and uplifting speeches combined with the utter importance of this moment, the rushed and rather mean-spirited acceptance speech on Thursday got Obama’s general election off to a shaky start. How much influence these conventions ultimately have on the election is likely minimal, but they are still each historic in their own way.