Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Deconstructing the DNC

By kgpatia
National Conventions for either political party tend serve as giant parties intended to rally the base, and generally produce little “real” news. They attract politicos, pundits, a massive swath of media, protesters, and in the case of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), as former president Bill Clinton noted, “hardcore Democrats.” With the tendency of the conventions to become media spectacles, it is thus easy to be cynical about what has come out of the confetti, fireworks, and seemingly endless punditry.

However, a closer look at this Olympic political event, which ended last night with Senator Barack Obama’s speech at the Invesco Field Stadium in Denver, Colorado, is warranted. For among the speeches and speculation, some answers to relevant questions and important insights were gleaned.

The DNC had an A-list line up of speakers for the week with both Clintons, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, former president Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Bill Richardson, and a host of others garnering a speaking spot. There were a number of phenomenal speeches, but out of the soaring rhetoric, some important conclusions were drawn.

The Obama-Clinton rift seems to have healed. Heightening the media buzz at the convention was obsession over the question of whether or not the Clinton and Obama camps would finally get it together and, in the words of the convention night geared toward this effect, “unify.” At the very least, any outward appearances of lingering resentment from a divisive primary battle could not be found. Hillary Clinton gave a good speech in which she asked her “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits” (one of the better lines of the convention) to join her in supporting Barack Obama.

However, some critics felt that there was something missing from her speech. The most ready critique was that Sen. Clinton did not say Obama was ready or prepared to lead as president of the United States. This seems like a valid critique, considering the “inexperience” argument that propelled Clinton’s primary campaign. However, this deficiency was corrected in former president Clinton’s speech. He emphatically said, “Barack Obama is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world. Ready to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States.”

Obama himself appeared to be trying to patch things up with the Clintons as well, complimenting Hillary on her speech and noting of former president Clinton in his speech Thursday night, “We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President - when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.”

Obama told his story. Until this week, Obama suffered one of the worst campaign problems a politician can have: people didn’t really know his background or his story. In an electorate where people oftentimes make a decision about which candidate to vote for based on heuristics, this was a serious deficiency. Last night, 38 million people reportedly watched Obama’s speech, in which he discussed his background, and presumably the biographical video that preceded the speech, which was produced by the DNC.

Obama laid out the specifics. Another favored criticism of Obama, that his speeches are merely “pretty words” that lack any real policy oomph, was addressed in the speech last night as well. Obama went into (greater) detail on his energy, education, and tax plans, to name a few, saying explicitly, “let me spell out exactly what change would mean if I am President.”

The Democrats went after McCain. From Hillary Clinton’s “No Way. No How. No McCain” to Obama’s call to leave behind cheap attacks on each other’s patriotism, the week was filled with efforts to highlight the stark contrast between John McCain’s vision for America and the Democratic Party’s vision for America.

All in all, a political event of this Olympic magnitude deserves its own awards. Thus, I have awarded a few below:

Best line from a speech: “People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.” –From Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday night

Funniest line from a speech: “To my supporters, my champions – my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits – from the bottom of my heart: Thank you.” –From Hillary Clinton’s speech Tuesday night

Best zinger from a speech: “It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.” – From Barack Obama’s speech Thursday night


With McCain’s selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his vice presidential nominee, a move not many in the political world saw coming, next week’s Republican National Convention promises just as big of a media blitz and answers to many of the arguments made this week by the Democrats. Shawn Healy will cover the RNC next week from the Twin Cities.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

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The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at