1 I noticed an essay in the Wall Street Journal, written by one of the most intelligent “establishment” pundits on the right, Peggy Noonan, and it made me blink.
She describes the Democratic Party as a party that operates under “a shadow of weirdness” because of it support for legal abortion, which she concludes “involves the killing of children.”
Noonan then makes this point:
When Kathleen Sibelius walked out to speak I did not think, “There’s the HHS Secretary,” I literally thought, “There’s abortion enthusiast Kathleen Sibelius, who decided to make the Catholic church bow to her need to spread abortion-inducing drugs.”
It gets at just how polarized our political culture is. Sibelius, the former governor of Kansas, is a fairly centrist Democrat. Noonan is a fairly centrist Republican. Yet the divide between them is vast and deep.
2. USA Today is reporting that Mitt Romney and his conservative allies are not airing political ads in Michigan or Pennsylvania. If the Republican has conceded those blue-leaning states, then we head into the fall with Barack Obama holding a 243-191 lead in the electoral college standings.
That will have huge implications for Romney and his team, whose margin for error will be reduced effectively to zero. Romney could win Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia and still not capture the White House.
This would mean that Romney can’t afford to see even one more big state slip out of reach. He also desperately needs to prove that a win in Wisconsin, with Paul Ryan on the ticket, is really achievable.
3. In a previous post, I threw out a comment about Bill Clinton’s substantive contribution to the debate over Barack Obama’s bid for a second term. But I want to also nod quickly at the tradition of political oratory that we saw on display last night.
There was a time in American history when people listened for hours to political speeches. Good politicians drew crowds that rivaled actors and singers — not just because they were famous or powerful, but because they practiced a kind of rhetoric that is almost lost today.
I used to get a sense of this kind of mastery from Ronald Reagan, who used many of the same oratorical techniques as Clinton. And Obama has occasionally risen close to their league. Barry Goldwater also mined this vein.
But more apt comparisons might be Abraham Lincoln or William Jennings Bryan, whose “cross of gold” speech triggered a kind of “bedlam” in his audience that lasted 25 minutes.
As a big fan of the culture of politics, I felt like I was seeing an old and real cool American folk tradition on display last night. In that vein, of course, Clinton was actually pretty short-winded. Some of the old speechifyers went on for five, six, seven hours.
Of course this kind of thing doesn’t always end well. In 1841, William Henry Harrison delivered a two-hour speech at his inauguration, going on and on despite the cold and rain. He died of pneumonia a few weeks later.