Fighting Barack Obama

In Denver this week the Democratic nominee laid out a feisty, populist message and pulled his party together.


Joan Walsh
August 31, 2008 7:13AM (UTC)

What a week. I'm sorry the Sarah Palin news delayed my reaction to Barack Obama's electrifying acceptance speech Thursday night. Of course the timing was designed to limit the positive aftershocks from Obama's big night; the McCain people are running a good campaign.

I'd been a critic of Obama's decision to move the event to Invesco Field, but I loved being there. (Getting there: not so much. Look for Caitlin Shamberg's video of our Salon pilgrimage coming soon). Likewise I've been skeptical of how much one more Obama speech could accomplish, but this one was different: Filled with more specifics, but also, animated by a feistier tone, and I like the new Fighting Barack Obama.

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I loved the way he went after John McCain – and George W. Bush. I loved the anger in his voice when he delivered the line: "Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land - enough!" You can hear more of my thoughts in this Current video from Invesco Field, where I look tired but happy after a long day in the Denver sun (text continues below the video):

One of my favorite parts was his shot at McCain advisor Phil Gramm, who famously dismissed talk of economic trouble by calling us "a nation of whiners." Obama shot back: "A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know."

On that score, I loved the Americans Obama chose for the last segment before he spoke – "average" Americans from swing states. I was prepared to daydream through their speeches awaiting the main event, but they were all terrific, particularly displaced Indiana factory worker Barney Smith, who got off one of the night's best lines: "We need a president who puts Barney Smith before Smith Barney,"

I think Obama has to keep hitting his economic message hard, hitting McCain – and Bush – just as hard, and thinking about Barney Smith. The Denver convention failed on that score Monday and Tuesday night, but Wednesday and Thursday the party found its voice.

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And I hope you kept up with all the great Denver coverage on Open Salon, including Invesco accounts by Dave Cullen and marytkelly.


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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2008 Elections

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