Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention

The Democrat’s Get Their Revenge
Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Sept. 7 2012 1:02 AM

Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention


How the Democrats got their revenge.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Eight years ago, when the president's Barry Allen journey to power began, my Slate colleagues agreed: Republicans questioned the patriotism of those who walked away from George W. Bush. And that was wrong. "Republicans have run out of excuses for blowing the economy, blowing the surplus, and blowing our military resources and moral capital in the wrong country," wrote our pal Will Saletan. "So they're going after the patriotism of their opponents."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

This week was Democratic revenge. John Kerry's speech made it obvious, because he took such radiating joy in balling up the 2004 attack lines and spitting them back at Republicans. “It isn't fair to say Mitt Romney doesn't have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position." "Talk about being for it before you were against it!"—and a room full of Democrats who had seen those words in Progress for America 527 ads cheered. And then: "Mr. Romney—here's a little advice: Before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you better finish the debate with yourself!" That's what you get, Republicans! 

A delegate holds a thank you sign on the final day of the Democratic National Convention.
A delegate holds a thank you sign on the final day of the Democratic National Convention.

Richard Kalvar/Magnum Photos for Slate.

And that was mild. Again and again, from other speakers, we were told that Mitt Romney's lack of faith in America, and lack of confidence in killin' terrorists, were character flaws that no one could heal. The president himself only hinted at it when he said "a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals." It was a deep groove. To connect it to Romney, you had to believe that the Republican really didn't believe that people could team up and build bridges. Vengeance for the "we didn't build it" horsefeathers, I guess.

I'm not sure how much the TV audience saw, but the run-up to the Biden/Obama finish was bracketed by multiple mentions of the Osama bin Laden killing. We heard it from a canned video, and we heard echoes of it from a phalanx of high-ranking veterans who now backed Obama. The Obama campaign warned months ago—May at the latest—that it was going to do this. Still jarring. The last time a Democrat could run, and wanted to run, on foreign policy was in 1996, and Bill Clinton's ability to do that was still limited by Bob Dole's war heroism. ("The better man for a better America" remains one of the great pissy campaign slogans.)

This theme worked. I don't think Obama's speech worked as well on its own. I'd avoided Twitter during the speech, mostly, so the only feedback I heard was from fellow hacks afterward. General agreement: Biden out-talked Obama. Before he was president, Obama had to work so manfully to prove that he was patriotic, and to tie John McCain to George W. Bush. It was exciting. But Obama's Democrats spent all week mocking Romney. The president batted clean-up. He even accepted the credit for "a new tower rising over the New York skyline," because as the president, he can take credit for any nationalist, jingoist feelings that he likes.

Can he do much more of that after tonight? Sometimes. With that final "you did it" refrain, he suggested that government works and fair taxation will do for him what the war on terror did for Bush. Criticize his vision for America and you're criticizing America itself.


Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.