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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Obama’s Biggest Speech

In New York magazine, Sam Anderson offers the first of what will be many, many previews of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in August. It concludes with this thought:

Convention speeches are by definition conventional: overproduced, stadium-sized, riddled with ritualized applause, cheese-ball taglines, balloon drops, and coded appeals to key demographics. Under the g-forces of so much demographic and institutional pressure, Obama could easily surrender to the occasion and be a little less impressive. His greatest speech, in this situation, might actually be a bad one. But, for a candidate whose entire reputation is built on freshness and change and inspiration, ordinariness could be a death blow. Obama’s only real option here is to find a third way: to fundamentally reimagine the occasion, as he did with the race speech, and blow the roof off the building without scaring anyone inside, to give the soaring speech of his lifetime that somehow doesn’t leave behind anyone on the ground.

Anderson generally suggests that if anyone can pull this off, it’s the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, “the first candidate in many cycles for whom speeches were not purely formal, schedule-plugging cliché-orgies but potent and densely written tactical weapons—and even occasionally, minor literary achievements.”

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