Charlotte, North Carolina
If voters had any doubt about Barack Obama, the 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, North Carolina seeks to cast them away. Speaker after speaker has been tasked with personalizing the President, standing up for his character, and arguing in different ways why he is the best choice in November.
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro delivered the keynote speech and although starting off slowly, caught his stride. The young Democrat confirmed what political watchers predicted was the night a star would be born. He captivated the audience with his personal story–being raised along with twin brother Joaquín by single mom and Chicana activist Rosie Castro. But warm fuzzies aside, the Stanford and Harvard law grad was tasked with a critical mission: frame what’s at stake in this election and make the case that the President is the best choice and deserves a second term.
Castro delivered. He focused on the economy and argued that the Romney-Ryan ticket supports Republican policies that have failed average Americans.
“The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price. Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it,” said Castro.
In contrast, Michelle Obama, whose speech ended the evening, never mentioned her husband’s opponent by name. But make no mistake, the campaign sent in an attack dog, a Rottweiler, to be precise, undercover as a poodle. The First Lady personalized her husband, testifying to his good character as a father and husband, their humble beginnings, and his belief in spreading opportunity to all.
“Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives,” she declared clad in a Tracy Reese dress, making a subtle yet pointed reference to Mitt Romney, a self-made millionaire.
On the second night of the biggest party in Charlotte, North Carolina, history was made when illegal immigrant Benita Veliz addressed the convention arena packed with delegates, media, volunteers and lobbyists. It was not the first, but the most poignant reference to immigration reform. Her message and that of Cristina Saraleguí (considered the Latina Oprah) who she introduced is very simple–the President offered relief for young DREAMers like Benita in the form of an executive order passed in June which delays deportations for young people who qualify. He will do so again, but for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants, pushing for immigration reform. There was no mention that the President reacted only after the DREAMers and others in the community, outraged by the skyrocketing deportations on this President’s watch, turned up the heat.
The main attraction was former President Bill Clinton, considered not the Top Dog as this title goes to Obama as the leader the party. But Clinton is the “Big Dog,” beloved by Democrats for his folksy feel and the nostalgia of better economic times. But under that “country boy from Arkansas” exterior, was a pointed, full-throated defense of Obama. In a speech that went long with a lot of ad-libbing, Clinton dismantled point by point the Republican arguments made last week at the 2012 GOP Convention about the President’s health care law taking billions away from Medicare and on the state of the economy.
And on this last point, President Obama’s re-election hinges. Americans were living large during the Clinton years with a growing economy. The former President reminded a hypnotized auditorium that Obama inherited the worst economy. Then he posed the most important question, one that’s on the mind of people in Charlotte and around the country, with an answer likely determining who stays or moves into the White House.
“Are we better off than we were when he took office?” Clinton asked.
His answer? Yes.
Now President Obama with his speech and in the days leading up to the election will have to convince voters to answer yes with their votes.
This post was first published as Election 2012: (Re)-Introducing Barack Obama on September 7, 2012 in Latina Magazine where I am a weekly politics columnist.
To read more of Viviana’s Election 2012 columns in Latina, click here.
To read and see more of Viviana’s 2012 Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention coverage, click here.Are you better off than you were four years ago?