Obama’s Speech Tonight: What to Expect?

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


remember-this.jpg

There are some weird dynamics surrounding Obama’s speech tonight. All of them, I think, point to a more subdued and workmanlike performance than many Democrats are hoping for.

(1) Obama delivered the speech of his career in 2004. Is it possible to give a better performance? Probably not, especially considering how the myth of that speech has grown. Obama may decide to give a different kind of speech tonight — not a barnburner like in 2004, but instead a deeply serious and policy-heavy speech that suggests Obama is ready to lead in difficult times. It wouldn’t serve him well to try and fail to recreate 2004’s magic.

(2) Today is the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Does Obama want to show that up? Does he want to risk the appearance of showing that up?

(3) The McCain campaign is slamming Obama daily for his “celebrity” status. Anything that works 75,000 adoring fans into a tizzy is just fodder for opposition ads. If Obama can do avuncular, this might be the night to do it. (Admittedly, there may be little Obama can do here. There will be 75,000 people there. They will go nuts.) The challenge is to do avuncular without failing the media’s (and his supporters’) massive expectations.

I think the campaign originally saw this as a culminating moment for the Obama movement. He would speak on the anniversary of King’s speech in front of 75,000 people. King was a vanguard for change, creating a mass movement that followed behind him and revolutionized the country. If you remember some of Obama’s early rhetoric, there was a strong strain in it that suggested Obama saw himself as the same sort of figure. But the idea of a “movement” has been turned from a positive into a negative. What was once universally acknowledged as a wonderful development in American politics — young people, minorities, and others traditionally uninterested in public affairs finally finding inspiration — has been turned into a liability.

Once upon a time, Obama wanted to be carried into office on the back of a movement; today, he may do what he can to pretend one doesn’t exist.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate