I’m immune to “America is great already” and “city on the hill” rhetoric (though Michelle Obama’s “I wake up in a house built by slaves” brought a tear to my eye). But I do love it when a speech maker holds up the founders’ great phrases as aspirations–or as promissory notes that it’s time, goddammit, to take to the bank and cash.
Talking Point Memo’s Josh Marshall noted that Obama less attacked Trump than made “him seem small and petty in comparison to the picture of America he’s painting.” Obama also (as Bloomberg and Biden did) zeroed in on the most appalling phrase in Trump’s speech last week, “I alone”–and the crowd’s pitiful chant of “yes you will” in response.
Obama’s speech was inspiring as hell, but I doubt it was very persuasive to those chanters. People that look up to people like Trump generally look down on people like Obama, never mind HRC. But here we are. Never mind that Trump is a bulllshit artist: he is galvanizing and mobilizing the most blatantly anti-American movement I’ve ever seen. As bumptious and ignorant as he may be, he puts all the American demagogues and race-baiters that came before him in the shade.
Someone in Philadelphia should tell that story about Benjamin Franklin and George Washington’s rising sun armchair. Here it is from Madison’s Journals: “Whilst the last members were signing [the Constitution], Doctor Franklin, looking towards the President’s chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art, a rising, from a setting, sun. I have, said he, often and often, in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length, I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising, and not a setting sun.”
Listening to Trump at the RNC last week it seemed to me that our national sun was sinking. For all that those Exceptionalist flourishes rubbed me the wrong way, for a few minutes last night I could almost believe that it was rising.