Bill Clinton is a vestige of what Democrats once were. A relic taken down from the attic by the Obama campaign and put out on display for the house party they are holding in Charlotte.
Clinton recalls a time when Democrats considered doing entitlement reform, agreed to welfare reform, were willing to cap spending, and believed in free trade. Some of them, anyway.
That’s why Clinton’s appearance was an exercise in subterfuge. It was an appeal wholly to independents and the critical few undecided voters Obama must win over to be reelected. It was an attempt to say, “Ignore the radicalism you are seeing played out at the convention, the partisanship, the leftism of President Obama. You, independents, have a home here in Charlotte too.”
While performing on a big stage to a big crowd, Clinton was mainly talking only to those watching at home who fancy themselves free thinkers and politically unaligned. And, already pre-endeared to Democrats, he is the only one who can sell the 2012 Democratic ticket to moderates without alienating the Party’s liberal base.
Clinton, you may have noticed, barely mentioned any social issues. The terms “abortion” and “gay marriage” were not uttered, and that was on purpose.
Instead, he talked about things the things the anodyne independent mind likes to grapple with, reciting what normally would be a mind numbing litany of statistics to “prove” Obama’s case.
But in Clinton’s hands, as always, numbers were magic.
The man who once said some kind of statistical chart was deeply moving to him is the only politician I’ve ever seen who can site statistics while still enrapturing a crowd. He appeals to their intellect – something they’re not used to but appreciate – and translates the numbers into moving examples and zinging political points to which people can relate.
With his unmatchable delivery and that down-home cadence suggesting he’s known you all his life, he made economics sound like the Sermon on the Mount. Independents crave a little passion in their politics, because their politics are not about passion. He gave it to them.
Clinton appeared to be using reason, even if, you know, some of what he said was inaccurate, some of it pablum, and all of it political opinion.
And reason is what independents like. They like to think someone is talking sense to them, because they believe sense is exactly what they possess, as opposed to the emotion-driven irrationality of the extremes.
Clinton spoke of “fact checkers,” “arithmetic,” and “cooperation,” words that send tears streaming down the faces of those determinedly in the middle.
He spoke appreciatively of the military, which some independents want to keep around to ward off the extremists in other countries until the day independent thinkers run those nations too. Because independents do at least understand there are crazy people in the world who can’t be swayed by their reason.
And then Obama emerged to embrace Clinton, the president who seeks to move the country irrevocably to the left wrapping his arms around the man who had spent nearly his entire political life trying to push Democrats to the center.
The crowd erupted. And at that point, if everything went according to plan, independents took leave of their senses.