With time to reflect, I have to say that last night could be the turning point in the election. It opened a narrative for the Democratic Party that answers their critics and concerned swing voters at the same time, showing that the war on terror would be well-prosecuted in the hands of a Kerry Administration. If Kerry can step into the role his introducers have cast for him, he's golden. Andrew Sullivan's analysis of the evening strikes me as particularly good.
Sullivan agrees with me, by the way, that Clinton would be president for life if the Constitution allowed it. And as I go back over last night's brilliant speech, it's easy to see why. Read the full transcript by following the link above, but realize that you're missing the oratorical flourishes that double the power of an already magnificent piece of speechwriting. Look at page 4, where Clinton delivered a Reaganesque line:
We tried it their way for 12 years. We tried it our way for eight years. Then we tried it their way for four more. By the only test that matters, whether people were better off when we finished than when we started, our way works better.
He followed this with a stream:
It produced over 22 million good jobs, rising incomes for the middle class, over a hundred times as many people moved from poverty into the middle class, more health care, the largest increase in college aid in 50 years, record homeownership, a cleaner environment, three surpluses in a row, a modernized defense force, strong efforts against terror and a respected America in the world. It worked better.
Just reading it, it's an impressive list. But the delivery turned it into the grand finale of an incredible fireworks display, an unequivocal statement that while there are honest differences between the parties, and both sides believe their way works best, ours has the facts behind it. Such is the genius of Clinton.
Perhaps it doesn't matter; perhaps the result is already inevitable. It occurred to me last night that in 1796 the nation elected John Adams its second president after he had served eight years as VP under a popular president, George Washington. In 1800 they turned Adams out and gave Thomas Jefferson eight years in the White House. In 1824 a divided electorate resulted in the man who got the plurality of votes losing the presidency to John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams. In 1828, Andrew Jackson led the Democrats to victory, remained president for eight years, and saw his VP during his second term, Martin Van Buren, elected for a term as president as well.
In 1988 the nation elected George Bush its 41st president after he had served eight years as VP under a popular president, Ronald Reagan. In 1992 they turned Bush out and gave Bill Clinton eight years in the White House. In 2000 a divided electorate resulted in the man who got the plurality of votes losing the presidency to George W. Bush, son of George Bush. Does it follow that in 2004, John Kerry will lead the Democrats to victory, remain president for eight years, and see his VP win a term to succeed him? Let's hope so.