By Gilbert Garcia
With Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, it's like a rock-paper-scissors duel that lasts for two years. They simply have to match each other point for point. She tries to make history by breaking the gender barrier to the White House, so he has to make history by trying to break the racial barrier to the White House. His DNC acceptance speech is perfectly timed on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, so her valedictory address at the convention came on the 88th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote. And if that's not enough historical coincidence for you, Mark Warner's keynote address marked the 60th anniversary of Sominex coming on the market. I'm not making this up, people. (Well, OK, I am, but you almost believed it, didn't you?)
San Antonio delegate Larry Romo told me that when Hillary addressed the Hispanic Caucus early in the week, she emphatically directed her supporters to rally behind Obama's candidacy, a message which Romo had already taken to heart by accepting the Obama campaign's offer to work with Veterans for Obama. Of course, some Hillary backers didn't get the memo. They love her so much, they refuse to follow her advice on this Obama thing. I guess that kind of defiance works in politics, but it's pretty hard to tell your significant other, "I love you so much I refuse to listen to a damn thing you're asking me to do."
On Monday night, the Republican National Committee hosted a "Happy Hour for Hillary" at the downtown Fairmount Cafe and drew about 100 people. While it's not unusual for the opposition party to throw a bash during a convention week (San Antonio delegate Judy Hall, a major force behind Obama's Texas campaign, remembers the GOP hosting a party at the 2004 DNC in Boston), to target a disaffected wing of that party -- on the heels of John McCain's laughably disingenuous "Why did Obama snub Hillary for VP?" ad -- might be a bit less orthodox.
I met with angry Hillary supporters from Oklahoma and California (one wearing a pointed "Country Before Party" t-shirt) who assured me they were voting for McCain, and that no amount of fence-mending from Obama would make them forgive him. They believe he condoned a lot of sexist coverage of Hillary and belittled Bill Clinton's presidency. It's worth noting, however, that none of these scorched-earth Hillary backers are actually delegates. Most delegates tend to be party loyalists, and they're tired of losing in November.
Hillary's speech was fascinating on a few different levels. While she strongly pushed for Obama's election, she said little about his personal attributes, and seemed to show more regard for Michelle. She also skillfully turned the frustration of her supporters around, saying they've struggled too hard and sacrificed too much to squander the effort by putting a Republican in the White House. My favorite moment came when she asked her backers if their commitment "was just about me," or was it connected to a bigger cause. It's rare for a politican to deflect cult-of-personality idolatry so explicitly, and it was a question worth asking.
Most of the warmup acts for Hillary, including Warner, were flat and unmemorable. Bill Richardson, one of many people trapped in a crush of people on the convention floor before Hillary's speech, was asked in passing what he though of Warner's effort. His response: "I didn't hear it. I've been running around. ... But he's a great speaker."
One final thought: While it's amusing to hear John McCain get teased about his 407 houses, I may be forced to emit a dog-whistle scream if I hear one more elected official at this convention say, "My grandfather worked 27 hours a day in the iron mines," "I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth," or "I still own the same used Volvo I bought back in college." We get it, you understand our struggles. Don't overplay a good hand.
It's worth noting that two of the patron saints of modern liberalism, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, were silver-spoon kids. Imagine FDR trying to fit in at this convention: "I was raised in a Hyde Park mansion. My father was a gentleman farmer, like his father before him. He worked 15 minutes -- every single day. Sometimes he even had to interrupt his afternoons of lemonade on the veranda to give the servants a tongue-lashing. America, I'm just like you!"
Editor's Note: Yesterday's convention blog incorrectly stated that Kanye West was headlining a Denver Rock the Vote concert. In fact, N.E.R.D. and Fall Out Boy were the featured acts.