Pat Buchanan hailed it as “the greatest convention speech” and said it topped other speeches he saw live, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ted Kennedy. Begrudging praise from staunch conservative commentators aside, Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention attracted approximately 40 million viewers. It beat the ratings from the American Idol finale. Does this mean the information generation is finally getting with it?
Given that most 18 to 25 year olds have been inseparable from their televisions since our neonatal days, it’s not surprising that a group of college kids clustered around the television two Thursdays ago. The flummoxing part is that we piled into a pint-sized room without air conditioning, willingly forsaking the usual Welcome Week frolic.
Another bit of oddity was that I was happy to grab a couch cushion to sit on instead of standing in the doorway, considering that there were more than 25 people in the room.
All of that because someone stepped onto the porch and said two words (two and a half counting the conjunction): “Obama’s talking.”
It would be simple to hypothesize that the reason why our generation is tuned in to this election is because the Obama-McCain debates are analogous to the first televised presidential debates between Kennedy-Nixon in 1960.
Obama is eloquent enough to wow even Pat Buchanan. Similarly, John F. Kennedy impressed his critics and overshadowed Richard Nixon with his luminosity. Like Nixon, John McCain is a disaster at the podium. McCain gave a speech in Kenner, La. that was so bad, even FOX News admitted it “wasn’t his best.” McCain has trouble reading the teleprompter.
Many news networks juxtapose Obama’s youth against McCain’s age and turn it into a question of experience. Some challenge that Obama is too green and that would make him a poor representative of the nation. I find it difficult to believe that Obama would be more inept than George W. Bush who was born into Washington prestige.
Within eight years, he has managed to plunge the country into trillions of dollars worth of debt, conduct a war on false premises and take away rights granted to prisoners under the Geneva Convention — to name a few. McCain’s years of experience in Washington, D.C. led Obama to remark that his opponent was so similar to President Bush that Americans don’t want “the next four years to look just like the last eight” and “eight is enough!”
Obama’s speech in Denver made it clear that what’s in store is more chimerical war-mongering as Republican politicians extol the value of finding new sources of oil by drilling through the habitats of furry critters in Alaska. McCain and his cronies have found another source of black gold in Iran.
While anyone can address the obvious problems with a conservative triumvirate, Obama has managed to succeed at this same strategy where John Kerry failed. Kerry couldn’t get the votes of middle America as someone who married a ketchup heiress. Nor, will McCain if he continues to define the middle-class individual as someone who earns less than $5 million a year. Obama’s talking, and we want to hear more than the standard rhetoric that is far from the reality these candidates purport to represent.
Obama summed it up best by saying, “I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans; I just think he doesn’t know.”
At this remark, everyone watching Obama’s speech with me laughed. And the people holding “Change” signs waved them around in applause. Then, I started to realize that this is like noticing — in mid-chuckle — that the joke’s on you.
I’m reluctant to believe that politicians — including Obama — have soft spots in their hearts for each of us, but at least Obama can comprehend life beyond the upper echelons of society. You know, that “stuff” like being able to afford “medicine,” having a “job,” being able to pay “rent” and having a “home” with “heat.”
Jennifer Sussex is an LSA junior.