I love Democrats.
Oh, there is plenty to lament over the long history of the Democratic Party. It hasn’t always been a party of inclusion, of hope, of promise for all.
But on Tuesday night it was my party, a party I could believe in, a party I could be proud to lock arms with, no matter the outcome in November.
I loved the night, full of speeches, from the Cincinnati firefighter, who turned from a Republican to a Democrat because of anti-union action by his state’s Republicans;
to Harry Reid, who still refuses to give up on Romney’s secret tax returns;
to former President Jimmy Carter, who Democrats are not ashamed of, unlike the convenient Republican allergy to George W. Bush;
to Joe Kennedy III, who is running to replace the venerable liberal Barney Frank;
to Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs in Iraq and is now, not ironically, running for Congress in Illinois;
to Stacey Lihn, fighting to keep her emotions in check as she spoke of her daughter Zoe, who has congenital heart disease and whose vulnerability is why ObamaCare is not a political liability but a reason to celebrate because it provides such families with “security and relief“;
to Ted Strickland, former governor of Ohio, who told the truth about Romney by saying that, “to him, American workers are just numbers on a spreadsheet,” and that he “has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.” He quoted the Bible, saying,
the scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. My friends, any man who aspires to be our president should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America. And it’s well past time for Mitt Romney to come clean with the American people.
Strickland said that President Obama “stands up for average working people” and “now, by God, we will stand up for him.” He said the President is an “economic patriot,” and the differences between him and Mitt Romney are such that we can’t “sit this one out.”
I loved Kathleen Sebelius extoling the virtues of “ObamaCare,” which she called a “badge of honor,” adding accurately that such laws “reflect the best of our values.”
I loved Lilly Ledbetter who celebrated the first bill President Obama signed into law, one named after her and that, “because of his leadership, women who faced pay discrimination like I did will now get their day in court.”
I was exceedingly impressed by the rousing speech delivered by the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, who followed Romney in that job. He attacked Republican philosophy, but admonished his own party:
If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe.
Backbones, I believe, were stiffened.
I enjoyed meeting future Democratic star Julián Castro, whose orphaned grandmother from Mexico with a fourth-grade education came to America and worked hard, raising a daughter who would be the first in her family to graduate from college, the daughter in turn raising two sons, one now the mayor of San Antonio and the other on his way to Congress this fall.
Then there was Michelle Obama.
Earlier in the day my 17-year-old son had asked me what were the essential differences between Republicans and Democrats. Mrs. Obama began to explain those differences with this:
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 that 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.
But that’s not all of it.
I couldn’t explain the ultimate difference between Democrats and Republicans better than Michelle Obama did in this passage from the finest speech, from beginning to end, I have ever heard given at a political convention:
He’s the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work. Because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.
He’s the same man who, when our girls were first born, would anxiously check their cribs every few minutes to ensure they were still breathing, proudly showing them off to everyone we knew.
That’s the man who sits down with me and our girls for dinner nearly every night, patiently answering their questions about issues in the news, and strategizing about middle school friendships.
That’s the man I see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him.
The letter from the father struggling to pay his bills. From the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won’t cover her care. From the young person with so much promise but so few opportunities.
I see the concern in his eyes and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, “You won’t believe what these folks are going through, Michelle, it’s not right. We’ve got to keep working to fix this. We’ve got so much more to do.”
Ah. There it is: “Michelle, it’s not right.”
Democrats make that value judgment. They’re not afraid to do so. They see something wrong in society and declare “it’s not right,” often, “it’s not right!“ And then they go about the hard job of fixing it. Republicans see things that aren’t right and say, “That’s the way it is.”
And that’s the biggest difference between the parties, between the philosophies that guide them.
“I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are,” Mrs. Obama said. And she added that when a president is making the hard decisions that American presidents have to make,
as President, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.
What could be truer than that?
And Barack Obama’s values, his vision, the stuff that makes him who he is, should give us confidence that, even if we disagree with him at times, even if we wonder why he is so reluctant to openly and defiantly call out his political opponents, we can still, as far as it is humanly prudent to do so, trust him.