Seeing Jimmy Carter deliver a video address on the same night that the ghost of Teddy Kennedy smacked around Mitt Romney was a fitting way to mark the end of the post-1980 Democratic party. For the first time in my life time I am part of a party that unabashedly supports their own founding principles. A victory in this election is far from certain, but through the adversity and insanity of this American political environment, the party of FDR, the Kennedy brothers, Lyndon Johnson, and Shirley Chisholm is finally defending the rights and livelihoods of our own constituencies.
Last night we saw the Democratic party personify the real benefits of Obamacare when Stacy Lihn told how her baby’s life was aided by the policy. We saw Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Iraq War Veteran and current candidate for congress relating her personal story of adversity and shamelessly saying “thank god for food stamps and public education” in an era when the poor are expected take pride in their hunger pains. Lily Ledbetter stood up and spoke in defiance of the twisted co-dependent relationship between corporate malfeasance and our justice system, and in doing so distinguished the accomplishments of this President from the awful future that would await our country with a CEO like Romney in charge. Every single speaker focused on which party has sought to expand the legal recognition of the rights for women, gays, immigrants, workers, and the economically disadvantaged, without condition and without any signs of hesitancy.
This was more than a rhetorical pageant put on by the DNC to raise the spirits of moribund liberals like myself. Last night was a sign that Democrats are finally, after thirty plus years, ready to engage in the pitted ideological battles which we must win in order to remain relevant in this century. The right targets were identified and excoriated. Trickle down economics, neo-fascistic attacks on the right for women to control their own bodies, and the rise of social-darwinism within a major political party were all discussed by prominent speakers and destroyed in prime time.
This new era of Democratic chutzpah was not a self-created phenomenon however. It truly was the Republican party that “built this”. The carful, methodical, and slow degrading of the social safety net, reproductive rights, and the entire public commonwealth was interrupted by the election (and subsequent freak out) of Barack Obama. Governing through obstruction and defamation might have allowed the GOP to take over the house in 2010, and possibly even the presidency this year, but they severely miscalculated the response from Democratic partisans. For once our party is stronger as a result of having to not just deconstruct the flaws in the conservative world view, but to defend the ideological under pinnings of our own ethos. Where as Obama might have been willing to work with the GOP to undo progressive accomplishments in the name of bipartisanship, Republican intransigence has instead radicalized our party back into the unabashedly liberal group that we always have been (give or take the existence of the Blue Dogs and DLC).
Beyond this convention and even this November, the Democratic Party has re-established itself as the party of understanding, nuance, and fairness. We have not yet fulfilled our own potential, but this is a very good start for a new era of progressive leadership and liberal governance. We are no longer scared of either of those terms, and that fact alone should be sending shivers up the spines of Republican pollsters and strategists from now on.