“This is our platform. This is our American mission. These are the dreams of our fathers and mothers. This is the demand from the next generation, who call to our conscience in a chorus of conviction, in classrooms from north to south, from sea to shining sea, when they proudly proclaim with those sacred words from our most profound pledge, that we are a nation with liberty and justice for all.”

Well, Newark mayor Cory Booker, a bald, black dude in a sharp suit, was one of the first speakers as the Democratic Convention opened this afternoon, but he’d already nailed it as far as I’m concerned. I teared up, feeling the crowd roar; got my American on.

The energy in the Time Warner Cable Arena is phenomenal, beyond anything the RNC summoned up for any speaker in three days in Florida. People are hanging off the rafters. The cameramen and women don’t have to hunt around for a black face, or a brown or even a tanned one — the place is a stipple painting, a colour riot of costumes, the energy pumps. Doesn’t matter whether you’re right or left, no one could deny that the energy is here.

The roll call of goofy doofuses the GOP brought out on their first day has nothing on this, and nor does the reaction that it got, the tepid applause awarded the freaks and saddos in Kmart blue suits and $9 red ties the Republicans rolled out as a warm-up act a week ago. This is raw and real, and taking the fight to the Right.

Half-past eight now. We’ve had a video tribute to Ted Kennedy, brilliantly edited to include his 1994 debate with Mitt Romney, who was running against him for his Massachusetts senate seat. The vid features a young, black-haired Romney, announcing his support for legal abortion and Roe versus Wade. “Mr Romney is not pro-choice, he’s multiple choice,” Kennedy remarks, a killer line I hadn’t heard before. Compared to the GOP’s limp Romney vid, this is kinetic, exciting  and has the rhythms that only tight editing can give.

Why so better? Because of course the people who can do this stuff are all Democrats. The GOP’s idea of a slick move was Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” routine, a recap of a Bob Newhart routine from the ’60s — what, you don’t know Bob Newhart? My God you’re in for a treat — and the people at the RNC didn’t like anything done pop culture past 1981.

Pretty good, but then, my God, we had Tammy Duckworth, who came out on her prosthetic legs. Half Anglo-American — “My family has worn the uniform since the American Revolution” — half Thai-Chinese, she spoke of the help that government had given, and eventually spoke of this:

“On November 12th, 2004, I was co-piloting my Blackhawk north of Baghdad when we started taking enemy fire. A rocket-propelled grenade hit our helicopter, exploding in my lap, ripping off one leg, crushing the other and tearing my right arm apart. But I kept trying to fly until I passed out. In that moment, my survival and the survival of my entire crew depended on all of us pulling together. And even though they were wounded themselves and insurgents were nearby, they refused to leave a fallen comrade behind. Their heroism is why I’m alive today.”

This is the key point that the Democrats may pivot on. Mitt Romney is already apologising for his failure to even mention the Afghanistan War during his convention speech. Now he has to contend with the image of a helicopter crew as an image of teamwork, rather than individualism. Seriously, I’m still trying to look at this from a distanced perspective, but then Ted Strickland, former Ohio governor came on, and gave a good old populist speech:

“Mitt Romney never saw the point of building something when he could profit from tearing it down. If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves. Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.”

You have to yelp it in his mid-western back-of-a-truck tones to get it right. We had a few duff folks after that, Obama’s rellies, and Kal Penn, doing humorous schtick, though it’s always wise to put your duff acts before the main game. On Fox News they’ve lined up dimwit liberals Bill Richardson and Richard Schiff (West Wing) whom Sean Hannity takes apart with ease, but even they can’t decry the enthusiasm there when they cross live.

Anyway, hunched over a laptop on a folding chair, like a lot of others, waiting for the first lady’s speech, and I and everyone in the tank for her, the noise deafening, stay tuned this afternoon …

*Guy Rundle will update after the big speech from Barack Obama’s wife Michelle — head to the website later today

Peter Fray

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