After a great dinner in downtown Charlotte, a group of Ohio delegates headed to the convention arena.
However, just as we were about to enter, the gates were closed. Apparently the Fire Marshal closed the arena as a result of overcapacity.
However, many speculated that it was because of either President Clinton’s or President Obama’s arrival. At the time, we did not know if we would be able to enter prior to the evening’s speeches, which included Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law School Graduate criticized by Rush Limbaugh regarding health care and contraception, Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and President Clinton.
Luckily we were able to gain access before the speeches, and had I missed what occurred in the arena just a few hours ago, I would have very deep regret.
Simply put, Clinton electrified the crowd. The man still has the touch, and from whatever may have come across on television, multiply it exponentially.
From the moment he walked on stage to “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac to the moment he and President Obama exited the stage to “Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the crowd was mesmerized. His speech, as a whole, was a defense of President Obama and an understandable, relatable explanation of not only the mess President Obama inherited but also the steps he has taken to clean up that mess.
President Clinton also dissected much of the commentary at the Republican convention and did his own version of fact checking and explaining. One line that drew applause was Clinton’s tongue-in-cheek assessment of the Republican strategy as, paraphrased, we (the Republicans) left a mess, President Obama hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough so put us back in.
He used that to build on the fact that President Obama became president with an economy weaker than any incoming president, including him, has experienced. Clinton discussed how the turnaround is happening but was careful to note that turnarounds take time for people to feel. He also remarked how the amount of work to be done on so many issues was not going to be able to be completed in four years and that President Obama, through his actions on so many items, including the auto bailout (Clinton specifically referenced Michigan and Ohio), earned another four years.
I enjoyed several components of Clinton’s speech. First, his ability to resonate has been present since 1992. Thinking about that, this man has been a force in Democratic politics for 20 plus years, and quite frankly, if our U.S. Constitution was amended, he would be the top Democratic candidate for president in 2016.
Clinton’s speech focused on something that hit home for me, and that is a constructive cooperative approach. And he took a moment to mention the mayors in the hall. Each day, our job is to get things done. We do not have time to be ideologues; our job is to deliver. And sometimes that means working with people of different parties, ideologies and views for the common good.
He pointed to his post-presidency work with both Presidents Bush and took time to praise other Republican presidents for their collaborative, bipartisan efforts for the common good.
But he also used the opportunity as a chance to point out how vengeful many in the national Republican Party have become and how detrimental that has become to our nation’s discourse. He pointed out what happened to Republicans who said they did not personally hate Obama or who may not have voted in complete lockstep — they were defeated or cast out — and he also brought up Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments two years ago about how the next two years were going to be used to defeat President Obama.
In our own backyard these stories rang true just recently with the announced retirement of Congressman Steven LaTourette, who represents Lake County. A moderate Republican, LaTourette fought for Cleveland and other parts of the region that he did not represent. He did not march lockstep with his party; he did what he felt was right for his constituents and his region. I have never met Congressman LaTourette, but I respect the heck out of him and look at him as a prime example of what Clinton expounded upon tonight.
I also liked Clinton’s discussion of how this election will determine in what type of country we want to live. As someone who has been asking residents in what kind of city they want to live with my upcoming income tax issue on the ballot, Clinton’s remarks included some of what I have already said this campaign season — we either invest in ourselves or we do not. With this choice comes either reward or regression. And Clinton made that choice crystal clear on the several issues facing voters in their choice for president. Here’s to hoping that I can bring some of that Clintonian magic back to Lorain.
P.S. For what it’s worth, Clinton was the only speaker I have seen who did not read exclusively from the teleprompter. The Ohio delegation is slightly behind the stage, so we have a view of the teleprompter complete with starts and stops. The teleprompter had to stop several times and back up others as Clinton was adding information and statistics to his speech. Regardless of your politics, the man can deliver a speech. Tonight he did more than that. He made me, along with thousands of others, excited to be Democrats, but, more importantly, excited to be Americans charged with making our world just a little bit better of a place for those who need us.
Chase Ritenauer is mayor of Lorain and a delegate to the 2012 Democratic national convention.