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The Substance of the Speeches

Now featured on the website: James T. Kloppenberg examines the rhetoric of the party conventions, and evaluates President Obamas acceptance speech in the context of his record:

The juxtapositions between the two conventions were jarring and emblematic. In the space of just a couple of weeks, Americans watched as the jagged fragments of their nation seemed to drift further apart. Republicans reveled in the glories of private enterprise, marveled at the promise of unregulated capitalism, and denigrated those who look to government rather than the free market for solutions. By contrast, Democrats celebrated togetherness and ridiculed the selfishness of those who trumpet American individualism and neglect the importance of community. Although Republicans excoriate Obama as a socialist bent on destroying capitalism at home and apologizing for American power abroad, their demonology was as empty as the chair to which Clint Eastwood delivered his bewildering soliloquy in Tampa. Obamas record, from his days as a community organizer through his years at the Harvard Law School and his service in the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate, shows that he has been committed to incremental progress through persuasion rather than arm twisting, painstaking consensus-building rather than power politics. He has consistently refused to denigrate the integrity or deny the intelligence of those who disagree with him. His steadfast commitment to respecting his foes, of course, has infuriated his most enthusiastic liberal supporters, who projected onto him their own dogmatic certainties and their own disrespect of their opponents. Even in Charlotte, where he gently mocked the Republicans reliance on tax cutting and deregulation as their only ideas, he embraced Franklin Roosevelts spirit of experimentation and again proclaimed his unflagging eagerness for bipartisan solutions because no party has a monopoly on good ideas. Obamas commitment to deliberative decision-making is not merely strategic. Instead it springs from his sober understanding that democracy requires a willingness to cooperate. Intransigence, as Americans have long understood and as we have seen demonstrated since the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, brings democracy to a halt.

Read the whole thing here.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

Wow! Great Article.

Thanks so much for the link.The need for real community is apparent in the weak and fragmented virtual communities we've been making do with post telephone, television, airplane, automobile, and internet. And, of course, as a direct consequence of all the speeding up and fragmentation, the old solid social bases are nearly nonexistent.

"he has been committed to incremental progress through persuasion rather than arm twisting, painstaking consensus-building rather than power politics"Really?

Dear Mr. Kloppenberg:Thank you for the analysis. I don't agree, however, with your statement that "(Obama's) steadfast commitment to respecting his foes ... has infuriated his most enthusiastic liberal supporters, who projected onto him their own dogmatic certainties and their own disrespect of their opponents."As one who is a "liberal supporter" of President Obama, I have been frustrated by his tactical blunders (in my view) in giving too much time and attention to Republicans who are openly aiming at undercutting him at every turn and explicitly stating that there is no compromise, no policy adjustment that will induce them to join in any legislation that the President will offer. Since it is now known that this intransigence began on the very day of Obama's inauguration, I think a bit of frustration is not out of line.We do not want to make the mistake of attributing motivations -- that Obama's "liberal supporters ... projected onto him their own dogmatic certainties" -- when we are speaking about a large group of people whose motivations we cannot possibly know.

Donald K; I too was a " liberal supporter' who was hoping for more Obama confrontation with the GOP obstructionists. Obama's stance was better though, as the polls show; I now say his stance pointed out the obstructionism better than yours and my 'dogmatic certainties' about inaction. 'you shall be heaping coals on his head and the Lord will reward you' Proverbs 25

John, we only have professional poll watchers on this blog.

Dear Mr. Gleason:Thanks for your response. I understand the point and I can certainly agree with you to some extent: President Obama went out of his way to try to accommodate the Republicans, and since it still didn't work, that showed up their admitted intransigence. I was not, however, commending "dogmatic certainty" -- I don't have any such stance in practical politics. My criticism was of Mr. Kloppenberg's wholesale attribution of (bad) motivation to an entire category of people, when he could not possibly know what their motivation was. I was providing a counter-example based on the motivation of the person I could vouch for -- myself.

Speaking of speeches: In today's NYT Nicholas Kristof writes about Obama's speech on Human Trafficking at Clinton's Global Initiative Annual Meeting this Tuesday. With all the other news of the day at the U.N, etc. not much media attention was given to the speech. By chance, I happened to see it. (It was broadcasted on CNN and MSNBC. I did not check FOX.)It was the most comprehensive, sensitive, and inspiring presentation on this issue that I seen or heard by any candidate or official in our government. Are you listening USCCB?