Put the Academy Awards and the first day of the Democratic convention side by side and it would be hard to distinguish which was politics and which was showbiz. From Ted Kennedy’s moving convention finale to the schmaltzy two-way between Barack Obama, who was speaking from a living room in Kansas to his family on the podium in Denver, the first of four prime-time Democratic infomercials was choreographed to perfection.
By Edward Luce in Denver
For some, particularly non-American viewers, that final touch may have been just a tad too perfect. But through the glitz and the Michael Jackson stage emerged a serious undertone that will be repeated endlessly throughout the week: Barack Obama comes from working class roots and he empathises with blue-collar America. Whether in his selection of working class Joe Biden as his running mate or in the centrist Democratic line-up of speakers throughout the week, the Obama campaign is signalling that it understands which demographic deficit it most urgently needs to eliminate.
But the chunkiest indicator came at the day’s finale when Michelle Obama delivered a well rehearsed speech that pivoted around the theme of her and her husband’s common blue collar origins. The speech was particularly skilful in the way it set her account of the Obamas’ hard-working, often penurious upbringing against a Stars and Stripes backdrop. Weaving class into patriotism – and even complimenting Hillary Clinton along the way – Michelle Obama delivered a barnstorming address. It will set the bar high for Cindy McCain when she delivers her speech at the Republican convention in Minneapolis next week.
Two nagging doubts were left with this (admittedly non-American) reporter. First, can the content break through the packaging? If day one’s Oscaresque package was any indicator, it may be hard for viewers to unwrap all the tinsel to get to the solid, blue -collar product inside. And second, can Barack Obama restrain his oratorical instincts in his setpiece address on Thursday and reach beyond the cameras and the excited crowds to all those ordinary voters on the other side? These may turn out to have been the wrong questions to ask – perhaps the message will hit home. But if the rest of the convention is presented the same way, some voters, at least, may suffer indigestion.