Everything the Republicans did last week, the Democrats appear to be doing
better than their counterparts in just about every way this week.
From day one, the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina
seemed to have a different energy and look. The convention floor was filled with
people who looked like America. Asian-spotting was no strain on the neck or eyes
here. Asian Americans were in the cutaways, multiple times, as well as on the
podium. Diversity showed up in such a big way with the Democrats, the GOP looked
pallid and ghostly by comparison.
In Charlotte, there were blacks, Latinos, and Asians everywhere the camera could
see. Gay people were waving rainbow flags and mentioned in speeches. There were
Sikhs in turbans. How many turbans did you see in Tampa? When music played,
there was better looking poster dancing in the DNC crowd. Was it the rhythm? And
when the speeches were given, every one of them seemed to communicate gold. Even
the possible Eastwood wildcard, Kal Penn, of “Harold and Kumar” fame, was
straight and on message. His mission was to inspire the youth demo, which he did
using a four-letter word: vote.
And when you didn’t think it could get any better, it did.
If there were any doubts how Michelle Obama has grown immensely in her role as
First Lady of the United States, they were all erased last night. She seemed
definitely ready not just for a second term, but perhaps even more. From FLOTUS
to POTUS? She has become perhaps the most popular political figure in the land.
Mrs. Obama, stunning in a sleeveless dress, made the case for her husband
Barack’s second term with a graceful, yet forceful, speech spoken from the
heart. She linked policy with the personal, painting the president in a
powerfully appealing way: as a family man who tackles the issues of the country
as if he were fighting for his own family.
“For Barack, these issues aren’t political–they’re personal, because Barack
knows what it means when a family struggles,” said Mrs. Obama. “Barack knows the
American Dream because he’s lived it…and he wants everyone in this country to
have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what
we look like, or who we love.”
“And he believes that when you’ve worked hard and done well and walked through
the doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back,
and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
The passage was just one of many that drew big, long 15-second cheers. It
conveyed the president’s motivations to work hard with the same values he had
when she first met him.
“He’s the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and
instead working in struggling neighborhoods,” Mrs. Obama said. “Because for
Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference
you make in people’s lives.”
Mrs. Obama’s speech was better than Ann and Mitt Romney’s put together. Mitt
Romney only wishes he could have given the kind of speech Mrs. Obama did. But
then he wouldn’t be a privileged white guy with a Cayman Island bank account.
Sure, Mitt Romney’s bit about the rose his father gave his mother was a nice
touch. But Mrs. Obama talked of her father with MS and his sacrifices for his
kids. And she talked of the president’s single mom and grandmother and their
sacrifices. Mrs. Obama gave the rebuttal to the “He’s a nice guy, but he failed
so let’s give another guy a chance” argument.
Why Obama? Because he’s going to fight for our sons and daughters, and give them
a “sense of limitless possibility–that belief that here in America, there is
always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it.”
That passage led to the speech’s rousing ending, urging one and all to “come
together and stand for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country
There was that motto again. Forward. Didn’t make sense to me until I saw the RNC
last week. But after that, it’s clear. And with Mrs. Obama’s overwhelmingly good
speech setting a standard, the momentum keeps building for the Dems this week
with the best speakers yet to come.
THE LATINO VOTE
Mrs. Obama was the star on Day One, but there were a couple of close seconds.
Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts was both a dynamic and effective speaker.
But the black vote is locked up for Obama; the Latino vote isn’t quite yet. So
while the GOP likes to talk up Sen. Marco Rubio as its Latino magnet, at the DNC
the Democrats unleashed Rubio’s equal, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
Castro, a Harvard Law-trained son of Mexican immigrants, was surprisingly good.
Articulate, touching, and in full command, he was so good that by the end, some
were dreaming of the diverse possibilities of Castro as the next Obama, maybe
paired with the First Lady in 2016? 2020?
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Castro has a purpose now. He connected
with people as he told his immigrant story, including the part where his
grandmother paid for the delivery of his birth by winning a menudo cook-off and
paying the hospital bill with the $300 prize.
And then he became the gentle attack dog, as he showcased the Obama record and
declared how Romney “doesn’t get it.”
Castro merely pointed out all the things that Obama has done for the middle
class, women’s rights, gay rights–and how “Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’” That is,
except for health care: “Actually, Mitt Romney said, ‘Yes,’ and now he says,
“Governor Romney has undergone an extreme makeover, and it ain’t pretty,” said
Castro. “So here’s what we’re going to say to Mitt Romney. We’re going to say,
It was an effective hook without being too negative. And it made one realize
just how much had been done in four years. The president might give himself an
“incomplete.” But how many of you had forgotten the passage of the Lilly
Ledbetter Act on equal pay? (You wouldn’t have last night. Not after hearing
from Lilly Ledbetter herself, of Ledbetter vs. Goodyear, with her blonde hair
and Kentucky twang.)
All of it was articulated through a personal framework that connects with all
And when Castro made the case, the focus was Latino voters.
The minority vote is almost the surefire way President Obama can get to the
needed 270 electoral votes. Analysts say if Obama can wrap up 80 percent of the
minority vote, he can beat Romney handily in November.
Obama already has virtually all of the black vote and 63 percent of the Latino
vote. Castro should help Obama add to his lead there.
Now what about that Asian American vote? People seem to have forgotten that as
many as 31 percent of us in key battleground states like Virginia and Nevada are
As rousing as the first day was, and even though Asian Americans weren’t
invisible, Asian Americans were still somewhat marginalized. Obama
Administration member Tammy Duckworth, who is running for Congress in Illinois
and a disabled vet, has always been a favorite of mine. Good thing she’s a
favorite of Obama. She got some play. So did the president’s sister Maya
Soetero-Ng. As did the aforementioned Kal Penn.
But on a night with mayors from Charlotte and Minneapolis, nothing for San
Francisco’s Ed Lee? Oakland mayor Jean Quan? Are our highest ranking Asian
Americans not ready for prime time?
Rep. Judy Chu, Cabinet Secretary Eric Shinseki, and California Attorney General
Kamala Harris are Day 2 speakers. But as you look on the roster and see the
future for blacks and Latinos in the party embodied in Deval Patrick and Julian
and Joaquin Castro, the absence of Asian American leaders on the level of a
young Norm Mineta or Mike Honda was noticeable.
Young Asian Americans are making their way up, young pols like the president of
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, David Chiu. Still, it was a minor
disappointment on what was overall a very, very good night.