Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC Day 3: Game-Change Day

Justin Sullivan of Getty Images took the photograph above at the Pepsi Center in Denver today, the day that — by acclimation — Illinois Sen. Barack Obama became the first African American nominated for the presidency of the United States. It is hoped that Getty Images will not sue for financial damages over an admittedly unauthorized use of Sullivan’s photograph of Moe Spencer, American citizen, in a moment that eloquently boils down two or three hundred years of turbulent American history into the tracks of tears on a grown man’s face.

Justin Sullivan may have closed the shutter on a camera, but this photograph, and the indelible national moment it distills, is more deeply the intellectual, emotional and spiritual property of America.

The United States changed, shifted in its moorings irreversibly at 4:47 p.m. mountain time, when Sen. Hillary Clinton suspended the roll-call vote she and her supporters insisted on, and asked that Obama be nominated by acclimation. Clinton, in a gracious if well-orchestrated display of concession — the second powerful display of the better angels of her nature in as many days — said:

“With eyes firmly fixed on the future in the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and country, let’s declare together in one voice, right here and right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate and he will be our president.”

“I move that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclamation as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States.”

This was the same night that Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware accepted the nomination to be Obama’s vice president. It’s the night before Obama is set to formally accept the nomination for president — an evening that’s already expected to be the capstone on an incredible year, as well as a call to arms for the rest of the campaign.

But in some ways, it was tonight that was the historic evening — as the face of Moe Spencer suggests. Tonight, for the first time, one of the two major political parties leading the Western world nominated a man of African descent to lead that party and, later, quite possibly, to lead the greatest, most powerful nation on earth.

◊ ◊ ◊

The naysayers in the punditburo who worried about the relatively pacifist tone of the convention’s first night, when Michelle Obama wowed the delegates, were wasting their time. That was evident tonight when, simply put, the Democrats busted a serious cap in the Straight Talk Express of John McCain. It’s anyone’s guess how many pro wrestling events they usually have at the Pepsi Center, but tonight was Tag Team Night at the DNC.

“Last night Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama,” said Bill Clinton of his wife’s gracious statement of support the night before. “That makes two of us.”

“With Joe Biden’s experience and wisdom, supporting Barack Obama’s proven understanding, instincts and insight, America will have the national security leadership we need,” he said.

“I say to you: Barack Obama is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world,” Bill Clinton said. “Barack Obama is ready to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States.”

“The Republicans will nominate a good man who served our country heroically and suffered terribly in Vietnam,” Bill said of McCain. “He loves our country every bit as much as we all do. As a senator, he has shown his independence on several issues. But on the two great questions of this election, how to rebuild the American Dream and how to restore America’s leadership in the world, he still embraces the extreme philosophy which has defined his party for more than 25 years.”

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry: “The stakes could not be higher, because we do know what a McCain administration would look like: just like the past, just like George Bush. And this country can't afford a third Bush term. Just think: John McCain voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Ninety percent of George Bush is just more than we can take.

“Never in modern history has an administration squandered American power so recklessly. Never has strategy been so replaced by ideology. Never has extremism so crowded out common sense and fundamental American values.”

Joe Biden: “Our country is less secure and more isolated than in any time in recent history. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has dug us into a few deep holes with very few friends to help us climb out.”

“These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader.”

As a blend of substance and stagecraft, the Democratic convention has been masterful already, and promises to be more so tomorrow night, when Obama speaks. But as evidence of a change in the American political machinery, as proof that the wheel of American fortune does turn in a democratic (with a small d) way, nothing trumps tonight.

Moe Spencer will tell you: Tonight was the night the game changed. Because tonight was the night that proved — to all Americans — that anyone can win it.
Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

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