Wednesday got off to a shaky start for the Democrats. Coming under fire from conservative talking heads – and caving – it wasn’t clear that the convention would be able to shake off the morning’s misdirection. But thanks to a combination of political heavyweights and a razor focus on matters of policy, the DNC got back on track.
The night began with a tribute to the ladies. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the stage as “Simply The Best” blared into the convention hall, and gave a speech that made the wounds of the Tea Party takeover fresh again. She was the essence of everything a Speaker should be – no slurring, no strange rambling bar jokes, just a passionate dictum on her commitment to the American dream. Then, after a pretty cheesy slow-motion video about the ladies of the Senate, all 12 sitting women Senators took the stage, and Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland delivered a powerful testament to Obamacare’s advancements for women.
Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and daughter of late Texas Governor Ann Richards, brought down the house with her prime-time speech. After delivering a scathing undressing of Paul Ryan’s extreme anti-choice policies throughout his career, Richards ended on a positive note, praising President Barack Obama as a “president who is on our side.” Richards’s speech in favor of reproductive rights was seconded by activist Sandra Fluke, who gained national recognition after being brutally attacked on-air by noted misogynist Rush Limbaugh.
Elizabeth Warren, who spoke before President Clinton, stole the show. The people’s champion and creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received standing ovation after standing ovation. Warren, who is running for Senate in Massachusetts, specifically fired back at Mitt Romney, saying, “No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. And that’s why we need Barack Obama.”
Women weren’t the only ones that took center stage on Wednesday. Union workers also addressed the delegates. Karen Usanio, a member of the UAW – one of the largest and most diverse labor unions in North America – spoke to the auto bailout that President Obama championed in 2009, and introduced UAW president Bob King. After that, employees of companies that Bain Capital had taken over spoke not to the unfairness of capitalism, but the unfairness of profiting off the failure of businesses and the massive income inequality that plagues the country. Not only were the speeches the perfect counterpoint to Mitt Romney’s false claims that Bain Capital was good for jobs and the middle class, they headed off the inevitable conservative response of, “Well, that’s just capitalism.”
But the best part of the night was, unsurprisingly, President Bill Clinton. In a speech that continued through a teleprompter malfunction to be 48 minutes long, President Clinton basically gave an in-depth public policy lecture – and the crowd loved it. He tackled and debunked all of the popular myths that peppered the RNC last week, and gave a stern explanation for why the economy hadn’t recovered. Clinton said, “Now listen to me, I want you to hear this. No president – not me, not any of my predecessors – could have fully repaired the damage he found in just four years.”
It was a speech that despite its length – more than twice the length nearly any other speech at the convention – kept viewers enraptured. And it put Paul Ryan’s alleged “wonkiness” and fondness for policy to shame. For the first time all campaign, viewers were actually spoken to like adults, and the reality of economic and public policy was laid out on the table. “It’s arithmetic,” Clinton bellowed to the ravenous crowd – a line that instantly became the sequel to 1992′s “It’s the economy stupid.” Arithmetic was trending on Twitter within minutes.
President Clinton’s speech was a breath of fresh air from the fluff that has dominated the conventions. If the Democrats weren’t solidly ahead in terms of talking policy and real solutions before, they certainly are now. And hopefully Americans will keep in mind what an adult conversation about politics sounds like before the next campaign stop.