John Edwards just hit the stage, introduced by his wife. Predictably, the place went wild, although Al Sharpton created the most frenzy to date. His drawl seems more pronounced than in recent speeches. He starts by echoing Mellencamp.
“I grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina. My father worked in a mill all his life, and I will never forget the men and women who worked with him. They had lint in their hair and grease on their faces. They worked hard and tried to put a little something away every week so their kids and their grandkids could have a better life. They are just like the auto workers, office workers, teachers, and shop keepers on Main Streets all across America.”
The joint is packed tonight. The energy level has been cranked up several notches. Edward’s speech is lifting everyone up and sending waves of excited applause bouncing up and down the aisles, off the walls, into the balconies.
“And the heart of this campaign — your campaign — is to make sure that everyone has those same opportunities that I had growing up-no matter where you live, who your family is, or what the color of your skin is. This is the America we believe in.”
Lots of applause at that line. Now he is going into his “two different Americas” riff. Next he talks about “fighting for the kind of people I grew up with”, his way of spinning his years as a personal injury lawyer.
He seems to be rushing a little through this part of the speech, the specifics of the plan “John and I” have put together, mistiming his pauses and failing to anticipate the applause points. Could he possibly be nervous? Nah…..
“So now you ask how are we going to pay for this? Well, here’s how we’re going to pay for it. Let me be very clear, for 98 percent of Americans, you will keep your tax cut-that’s 98 percent. But we’ll roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, close corporate loopholes, and cut government contractors and wasteful spending.”
Big round of applause at this point. Censensus seems to be in favor of sticking it to the fat cats.
“I have heard some discussions and debates about where, and in front of what audiences we should talk about race, equality, and civil rights. Well, I have an answer to that question. Everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere.”
Sustained applause and chanting.
“And we will have one clear unmistakable message for al Qaida and the rest of these terrorists. You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you.”
He delivered this line as a quiet, deadly threat, the way tough guys talk soft sometimes so people have to listen close. The crowd exploded.
“We will double our Special Forces, and invest in the new equipment and technologies so that our military remains the best equipped and best trained in the world. This will make our military stronger so we’re able to defeat every enemy in this new world.”
More subdued cheering. There may be some unrepentent pacifists in the audience.
“And together, we will ensure that the image of America — the image all of us love — America this great shining light, this beacon of freedom, democracy, and human rights that the world looks up to-that that beacon is always lit.”
Pause for applause, but his voice lacks the ringing conviction we expected. Where are the great orators of our age? Declaiming hip-hop street poetry?
“So when you return home, you might pass a mother on her way to work the late-shift-you tell her … … hope is on the way.
When your brother calls and says that he’s working all the time at the office and still can’t get ahead-you tell him … … hope is on the way.”
New tag line – “Hope is on the way” – being repeated and chanted back and forth from the podium to the floor and back again. Somewhat puzzling. “Help is on the way” is more realistic and, well, helpful, getting folks to hang in their until relief arrives. Help is something solid and real, and to be welcomed. Hope, on the other hand, is an emotion, which may or may not be realized and rewarded.
“Join us in this cause. Let’s make America stronger at home and respected in the world. Let’s ensure that once again, in our one America — our one America — tomorrow will always be better than today.
Thank you and God bless you. “
Again, a little rushed and uncertain, as if the MC were waving and pointing at his watch from off-stage. Or perhaps he is nervous about being TOO good and upstaging his boss, the candidate, even 24 hours in advance; However, when it becomes appearant that this is the end of his speech, the cheers go up and the signs start to march around the hall.
The whole family scene is now playing out on the podium, wife, kids, waving and the band in the background. The crowd seems to love it. Yet we are mildly disappointed. This is the Edwards frenzy, the charismatic pull to ballance Kerry’s ascerbic seriousness?
Compared to any self-respecting Latin American populist the speech we just heard was a tepid ten minute tease.
Time to pack up the gear and head for the Blogger Bash.