Jesus good god, Garp. Arp. Nurk. We’re all here, speechless, winded. I ask the bloke next to me, a tired regular from a North Dakota paper, his shirt patterned like one of those old 13-column money books. Remember those; course you don’t. Anyway, I ask him: “Did she just …”
“Yeah, she did.”
He manages to sound enthusiastic and tired at the same time, the leitmotif of the dead-tree press. But there’s no disguising the excitement in his flabby body, leaping up at about the 10-minute mark, the folding chair snapping behind him.
I’m on my feet too, so is everyone. Michelle Obama is finally speaking, and jesus it’s something else. She meandered through the usual stuff about their families and the struggles they had — real struggles, not those of the Romneys, children of governors and industrialists.
Then she talked of Barack’s entree to the Presidency, and her worry that it would change the family. And then fusing that with the sense of purpose in both of them, she said:
“That’s the man I see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him. The letter from the father struggling to pay his bills. From the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won’t cover her care. From the young person with so much promise but so few opportunities.
“I see the concern in his eyes … and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, ‘you won’t believe what these folks are going through, Michelle. It’s not right. We’ve got to keep working to fix this. We’ve got so much more to do’.
“I see how those stories — our collection of struggles and hopes and dreams — I see how that’s what drives Barack Obama every single day. And I didn’t think it was possible, but today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago. Even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met.”
Yeah, I know — they’re a couple of slick professional lawyers, Chicago Democrats, the works. And Michelle’s delivery had a stagey quality to it, a deliberate hesitation, which ill-behooved a Chicago lawyer, and fooled no-one who knew. But. But. But …
There is a thing to the real. In the last analysis, it is not merely the words that are said, but who’s saying them, and what lies behind them. So it is not merely that Michelle Obama’s father was neither a corporate owner, nor the governor of Michigan, but a security guard who became afflicted with MS, but kept going to work, getting up, as we have heard, earlier every day to accomplish the task of buttoning his shirt.
Nor is it merely that Barack Obama was raised by a single mother, and then middle-class grandparents, originally out of Kansas, somehow in hippy Hawaii. But it is that both of them, Barack and Michelle, were projected towards a series of policies responding to their origins and circumstances, something that acknowledges that no-one does anything purely individually, that life is not some sort of aynrandian proving ground of the fittest and the others, but some sort of joint process.
Before that, we’d had San Antonio mayor Julian Castro. Fun fact: in 1942, in the depths of the war with Germany, the government commissioned a report on how they should design a post-war society. The Beveridge Report was the result, promising a social democratic society, free education, etc. It was a stunning move of confidence by an embattled society.
Having Juan Castro, a Texas mayor, introduced by his twin brother, a Texas state assemblyman, going for Congress, was a Beveridge move. It was a pitch not to 2012, but to 2020 and 2024, and the holy grail, the idea that the Democrats could turn Texas and put it into play, at which point the GOP is officially fucked, losing its only keystone electoral college state.
Look, there’s no dicking around here. Check the National Review Twitter feed, check any right-wing website if you don’t believe me, Michelle won this one. She won not only the battle of the wives, but she gave a better speech than anyone in the GOP convention. That is taken as some sort of toss-up, but why would it be?
There’s an asymmetry here. Michelle Obama became a topflight lawyer from a black Chicago background, raised kids simultaneously, and almost split from her husband when he became so obsessed with his political career that he wouldn’t renegotiate the marriage. Ann Romney got with Mitt in senior year, left him briefly when he wasn’t allowed to contact her as part of his Mormon underwear missionary weirdness, then came back. Under the aegis of Mitt’s father, she converted to Mormonism, became the dutiful wife, got rich with him, started breeding horses and got MS herself.
So, jesus, she’s a Mormon wife, chosen by an elder, assigned to a son, just another part of the patriachal horror that is Mitt Romney’s entire existence, and which he rebels against by fucking up. He will fuck up again, watch. There are at least half-a-dozen fuck-ups yet to come.
Let’s face, even the GOP diehards didnt think Ann’s speech was all that. She seemed like a nice lady, but the dare was there: for someone to say that it was better better better for a woman to be a lawyer and a mother, than just a mother, with all the money she needs, her religion assigned to her by her father-in-law, from a religion whose record on old men taking young brides is, well, yknow …
So I think what I’m saying is that Ann Romney squeaked it out, while Michelle Obama knocked one out of the park.
So, in the end, thank god for day one. The Democrats can put on a show; it’s a pity they can’t win the battles on cable TV. I have never seen such a bunch of incompetent hacks in the media round the traps, as when they responded to the simple question: are you better off than you were four years ago?
To which the obvious answer is, yelled at the screen by Jon Stewart, in similar terms: YES YES YES! IF IT WASNT FOR US THERE WOULD BE A DEPRESSION NOW, UNEMPLOYMENT WOULD BE 15%, WE SAVED YOUR ARSES, FEAR FEAR THE ALTERNATIVE. But the Democrats went, for an hour ‘no, “but when you consider the price differentials regarding parity purchasing power …”. ARRRGGGHHHHHH! Tell them Jesus believes in Obamacare for chrissake. The next day they were all back on message, but god it was frightening. The party apparatus is all spiritual combovers and pathetic party clientalists.
Gaaaak. OK, Michelle saved it. Everything’s back on track.
Ann Romney’s bullshit about having an ironing board for a dining table … Who has a dining table when you’re students? How can you sit at an ironing board? Did they have high stools? How did they pay for the stools? Haah? Haah?
Look let’s face it, fair or not, everyone thinks Ann Romney is a blonde, dressage-fancying, just-following-orders New England baby factory who comes via embossed invitation-style cards — to whom it may concern: I’ve come — while Michelle Obama is a whipsmart long-limbed black goddess, but that’s how it goes.
Anyway, by the end of her speech, we’re all in the tank, we’re all in the tank, if we were ever out of it.
“That was fucking phenomenal,” I say to ledger shirt man. I want to high-five him, or even chest slam, but the ripple-slap effect would last for ever.
“Yeah, it was.”
“You don’t sound very convinced.”
“Well, I’m from North Dakota.”