“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country is not great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on Earth.”
So said Michelle Obama in a speech so powerful as to have no rejoinder, aside from Bill O’Reilly’s attempt to commend slaves’ dining options during the time they built the White House.
We’ve heard that term many times, generally from pale and stuffy right-wingers. It’s code that we should interpret as “Pale Power.”
Heretofore, the propaganda regimen of “exceptionalism” has been to downplay America’s historic problems, particularly those that apply to race.
Well, the first lady did just the opposite at the Democratic National Convention. She mentioned slavery – black hands hoisting the materials that became the White House – not as a slam on America but as a stunning and poetic tribute.
Most specifically, it was about a nation that, despite a track record of racial and gender-based discrimination, elevated a black man to the presidency and now sees a woman standing on the brink.
Pretty great, huh?
It was just one sumptuous slice of a convention that was so lyrically patriotic, so focused on love of country and citizenship, that in contrast it made the Republican convention look like a coffee-shop grumble fest.
And talk about contrast: An incredible array of seasoned and serious public servants offered a rejoinder to Donald Trump’s call to transform government into one huge temp agency.
Let’s face it: When it comes to public service, Trump isn’t even The Apprentice. For most of his life he was divorced from public policy.
And now? He harks back to Hiroo Onoda, the Imperial Japanese soldier who hid from reality for 29 years, and came out unsure who actually won World War II.
Trump came out of hiding from behind his stacks of unpaid bills in 2012. What lured him forth? Getting jiggy with the tin-foil mad hatters seeking to convince Americans that Barack Obama was Kenyan. Whatever gets you to pay attention to matters of self-governing, Mr. Trump. Welcome.
The problem: To Trump, “self-government” is not that of Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt but that of Idi Amin, Kim Jong-un, and favorite pen pal Vladimir Putin.
Did we say contrast? Let’s just say that in terms of citizenship, Clinton vs. Trump not only is no contest, it’s the ’27 Yankees vs. the Pee Wees sponsored by Zelmo’s Auto Shop.
In Hillary’s eight years as a U.S. senator, she served on the Budget and Armed Services committees. As secretary of state, she visited 112 countries. As first lady, she was point person in establishing CHIP — the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
As a young woman, she knocked on doors on behalf of children with disabilities for the Children’s Defense Fund. A year before becoming first lady of Arkansas, she founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
None of this will sway her foes. It does, however, set up a fascinating bit of turnabout. Eight years ago opponents tried to paint Obama as callow and unfit. Now they paint Clinton as – too seasoned?
Indeed. They now say we need someone who never came within a five-iron of public governance until a certain urge hit.
Oh, and let’s mention Tim Kaine: city councilman, mayor, lieutenant governor, governor, U.S. senator. No, that’s not the Trump way to leadership. The Trump way is the golf-cart path.
Say what you will about the brand of governing represented by the Obamas and the Clintons, but in their convention they artfully depicted governing as a work of love –a love of country.
You say that pasty-faced people own the copyright to that. It didn’t sound or look like that in Philadelphia.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.