August 25th, 2008
06:08 PM ET

Opening of Historic Convention

David Gergen | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

As the Democrats open their convention in Denver, these quick thoughts:

  • HISTORIC: Whether or not they win the White House, this Democratic convention represents an historic breakthrough. Remember that this is a party whose roots rest deep in the soil of slavery and Jim Crow. Only with the coming of John Kennedy to the White House and then, especially, the passage of the Civil Rights laws of 1964 and 1965 under Lyndon Johnson did Democrats win the allegiance of black Americans. And now they become the first party ever to nominate a black America. Win or lose in November, this represents a huge advance for the party – and the country.
  • THROUGH A LENS DARKLY – In the past 24 hours, most of the media has spoken continuously about all of Barack Obama’s problems. And certainly he has them: the on-rush of John McCain, the disgruntlement of many Clintonites and the closing of the polls suggests that indeed, the Republicans could pull off an upset this fall. But caution is in order here: the underlying landscape still favors the Democrats this fall. Ask yourself: If you were given a chance to play Obama’s hand as opposed to McCain’s hand, which one would you choose? Isn’t the answer pretty obvious?
  • THE OBAMA-CLINTON TENSION: Polls of Democratic voters as well as delegates show that a significant number may bolt for McCain this fall. Bruised feelings remain on both sides. And of course the media is going to report heavily on these tensions: that’s what we in journalism usually do – focus on conflict. But again, some caution is in order: Hillary Clinton, after all, has been going all out in the past few days to put fires out and bring unity. That’s going to help. And don’t be surprised if these GOP ads trying to use Hillary’s campaign comments to drive a wedge among Democrats soon backfire. It’s one thing for you to have a squabble with a family member, but when a rival steps in and tries to exploit it, that drives the family members into each other’s arms. Could happen here.
  • MICHELLE’S ROLE: Her speech Monday night is her second debut for some Americans and perhaps her first for many others who are just starting to focus in on the race (yes, there are millions like that – after all, only about half in a poll this weekend said they knew who Joe Biden is). The test for Michelle is whether viewers walk away tonight feeling not only more warmly about her and the Obama family but if they also feel that they would be proud to have the Obama family in the White House.
  • THE ROLE OF OTHER SPEAKERS: Starting tonight, the role of other speakers is to change the narrative of this election. In recent weeks, the Republicans have been making it more and more a referendum on Obama – a referendum they clearly think they can win (and they may just be right). Of course, this convention must help to strengthen perceptions of Obama and his policies. But the larger challenge is to flip the national conversation so that the election becomes a referendum on Republican rule. That is traditionally what happens at the end of an eight year reign by one party – and that is traditionally why the out party then wins. Making this about Republican rule will not only help Obama but help the rest of the Democrats running around the country – and remember, Denver is not just about Obama but the fate of all Democrats.
  • THE ROLE OF OBAMA: Let’s save that one for another day – a day soon coming.
soundoff (264 Responses)
  1. alla verlotsky

    Was wondering about Michele Obama speech when she sad that democrats will be fighting for a new future at the town hall and church meetings. Meaning that she is counting in only christian population of the U.S. ?
    What about meetings in Buddhist and Jewish Temples, Musks? What about those Americans with Democratic values who are not Christians? They are not counted in Mr. Obama's future policies and interests? Are Obamas for Christian's only?
    I find this very short sighted and rather disappointing.....

    August 27, 2008 at 8:18 am |
  2. alla verlotsky

    Was wondering about Michele Obama speech when she sad that democrats will be fighting for a new future at the town hall and church meetings. Meaning that she is counting in strictly christian population of the U.S. ?
    What about meetings at Buddhist and Jewish Temples, Musks? What about people, those other Americans with Democratic values who are not Christians? Are they off her or her husband's radar? Is Obama for Christians only ?
    I find this very short sighted and rather disappointing.....

    August 27, 2008 at 12:05 am |
  3. tony from GPT

    The Clinton’s breaded an environment of hatred and resentment. Black people should be advised that if we lose (Democratic Party) it is an absolute result of the Clinton’s deplorable campaign tactics. The Clinton’s campaign warfare has created an abnormal distance between the intra-party candidacies. I believe that the Clintons deliberately created this abnormal divide so that they could use it to strong-arm their way in the White House……president or vice president. Blacks have so much riding on this election; if Obama loses this election blacks will take it out on the Clinton machine and bigoted fear mongering white people. A lose is equivalent to Martin Luther King’s assassination X-times 10. Speaking of assassinations, there are two Arkansas representatives who (spoke in code) mentioned Obama and assassination in the same SENTENCE. What a shame that is straight up hate.
    White people finally get to experience life from a black political experience. Blacks have always asked themselves will the white president forsake the black voice. Now, white people are asking themselves will the presumptive black president hear the white voice or will he make us pay for our sins against the minority. White people how does it feel? Obama has more than proved he is fair and objective. Because blacks have been oppressed, we have a deeper objective perspective than any people. When in power, blacks desire that everyone be oppress-free and prosperous.

    August 26, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  4. Edward S. Webber

    On August 21st, I just wrote to Sen. Clinton with the following warning:

    Sen. McCain's answer, last week. to the question about what Supreme Court members he did not like highlighted a problem that has NOT been discussed. He named all the liberal and moderate members who "legislate from the bench". He wants only members who will "legislate" from his perspective. If elected he will have the opportunity to do this which will change our government drastically for the next 50+ years!

    I believe THIS CHANGE is NOT the desire of the 21% of Sen. Clinton's supporters who indicate they plan to vote for Sen. McCain, and the 27+% who are currently undecided. If they are voting, or not voting, due to their disappointment and frustration with the Democratic Party, do they realize they are actually voting AGAINST their own BELIEFS and INTERESTS? Please RALLY these people to VOTE for what they BELIEVE IN, NOT out of ANGER or SPITE! The race is TOO CLOSE!

    Edward S. Webber, LCDR, USNR (Ret.)

    August 26, 2008 at 6:19 pm |
  5. Kate Fergus

    To Brian K,
    When I said that the Obama's were just as ambitious about getting into the White House as the Clinton's, I was merely pointing out that they are not that different when it comes to political ambition. Why should Clinton be vilified for her ambition while Obama is praised. Given the situation in American, I still feel that Clinton would have made the better candidate.

    That doesn't mean that I won't support Obama when the only choice is more of the Bush Republican machine (which is what McCain represents). I am, however, concerned that Americans who are not convinced about the Democrats and their ability to change the direction of the country, will not support Obama unless he takes his campaign up a notch and starts really differentiating himself from McCain with substantive details about his plans to improve health care, the economy, and the country's global reputation. The time for rhetoric is over.

    I am still waiting for this. I hope the rest of the convention will deliver this message loud and clear to give the voters more confidence in Obama's ability to deliver on the change message he has been promoting throughout the primaries.

    August 26, 2008 at 11:06 am |
  6. William of Iowa

    Mr. Gergen,
    I enjoy reading your posts. I respect your insight and agree most of the time. While Mrs. Obama's remarks were moving and reinforced my respect for her, the speaker who genuinely moved me was former representative Jim Leach (R) of Iowa. Those Democrats who supported Clinton and contemplate bolting for McCain should review his presentation and then reconsider their decision.

    August 26, 2008 at 10:58 am |
  7. Reader

    Good one Jeo Yelo…. Finally someone points out that Obama is muslin, i.e., thin cloth.

    While others pursue the spurious claim that he’s a muslim (which of course he isn’t) you’ve zeroed in on the real truth. He’s muslin. And, like most cloth, has few “experiences.”

    I can also see why your preference for Hillary Clinton would lead you to vote for John McCain, since he has almost diametrically opposed views. That’s what I always say.. if you can’t vote for your favorite candidate, vote for someone who opposes all their ideals!!

    Kudos Jeo Yelo!

    August 26, 2008 at 10:51 am |
  8. Terry in Denver

    David, How much of the Hillary dissention do you figure is based upon feminism alone? In other words, if "she" had been Sir Edmund Hillary would the outcry about his/her loss have already subsided? What if Barrack had lost? Would the convention hall be filled with placard waving Barrack supporters runining Hillary's chances of winning the White House by claiming racism or would they be enthusiastically supporting the winner of the primaries?

    August 26, 2008 at 10:35 am |
  9. Gladys

    I know I'm messing his name up – but there was this was this guest on the Faheed Zhakaria show that said in Europe Obama almost like the embodiment of JFK and Martin Luther King in one person.

    Those are some 'extremely' high expectations and great hopes for one man.

    August 26, 2008 at 9:59 am |
  10. Gladys

    I was touched. There was something about how they showed the picture of the 3 Kennedy brothers – and the connection to American history, and how Ted Kennedy the last remaining brother stood up and backed Barach Obama.

    I think the reason why people were moved to tears is they saw history, legacy, and honor all in one place at one time position itself in Obama's favor when Ted Kennedy spoke. It was more than words.
    It was almost like you saw one era being ushered out, and another one coming in.

    August 26, 2008 at 9:57 am |
  11. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    McCain can only win if Democrats let him. According to Republicans themselves McCain doesn't have good VP choices and the only person that would be good on the ticket is Colin Powell and I don't think that will happen. If he picks Romney he's got problems and if he picks Lieberman he's got real problems. Republicans know John McCain can't win without democrats and they aren't showing up for the GOP convention.

    August 26, 2008 at 9:35 am |
  12. Pat

    I find it interesting that Obama focuses on his African-American side and not his White side. Obama is trying to use that he is black to win the Presidency, so much so, that he selected a White VP Candidate. Like the one blogger said, why not focus on both sides (Black & White) of who you are and not just the Black side. An Oreo cookie doesn't claim to be a Vanilla or Chocolate cookie, it claims to be what it is – an Oreo cookie. Obama should do the same – be proud of both Black and White cultures.

    August 26, 2008 at 9:15 am |
  13. Pat (Not the Pat above)

    Guess we Pat"s will have to use a last initial there's alot of us!

    I am proud of the Democratic Party after watching the Convention last night. Anyone who come away with any negative feelings from that gathering has a problem.

    God Bless Ted Kennedy and his Family. He is a Platinum amongst leaders and is made of the stuff that only Great Men were blessed with! His tenacity, desire, strength to not only be there last night but be on stage to support the man he knows and believes wholeheartedly is our only chance for a restored America defines statesmanship! My prayers are with him and his family. May God Bless him with a Full and Speedy Recovery. And Caroling like her Mother before her, is the epitome of Grace and Greatness.

    Michelle blew the cap off the rooves of fear, doubt and the unknown. She is a Leader in her own right! And a woman any Nation would be proud to call their own. She and Obama are a union based on Hope for a Brighter Future for all Americans.

    Even Nancy Pelosi managed to shine last night!

    Obama and Biden for Democracy, Unity and Restoration!

    August 26, 2008 at 9:09 am |
  14. Mark

    First night is what I expected. Any educated voter will take Michelle Obama's speech for what is was: An attempt to make you feel good about her husband and herself. Since this was all the analysis talked about prior to her speech the speech came acrossed rehearsed and not genuine. I think if the media would not tell viewers what she will be talking about it may have come across well.

    August 26, 2008 at 5:58 am |
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