Michelle Obama, Superstar

Group News Blog, August 26, 2008

photos by Evan Robinson


Monday night was the first time I’ve ever been on a convention floor. In some ways, it was very much what I expected — an explosion of light and noise and color as I came out of the tunnel onto the main floor; the constant low roar of conventioneers chatting, even as the speeches unwound on the dias in front of them; the dazzling stage set (and it is dazzling); and the speeches, which for the most part were vast wilted bouquets of the same florid rhetoric that’s been recycled (near as I can tell) for every convention since Andy Jackson was president.

Even Claire McCaskill spoke in cliches. Even Ted Kennedy, whose surprise visit found him looking astonishingly hale and hearty, couldn’t get away from the hoary old applause lines. Tom Harkin charmed the crowd briefly when he came out and spoke his first sentence in sign language: “I see so many people with disabilities here — we are so proud to have your support for Barack Obama for President.” (I probably would have been more impressed if I hadn’t been parked right at the feet of the full-time sign language translator at the time.) As speakers came and went, the energy level in the room stayed flat, the applause stayed sparse, and the din continued as if what was going on on the dias was a mere distraction from the real work.

The evening’s theme was “American Voices, American Values.” It was, as first convention nights usually are, the biographical moment where we meet the candidate — where he came from, the people who influenced him, the events that shaped him — and connect with all the ways in which his story is our story. This time, the program carried some extra freight, because the details of Obama’s story are the best antidote there is to the McCain campaign’s charges of “elitism.”

But even so, the going was slow and boggy….until there was Michelle.

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