Inspiration: Writing About the Conventions

As the U.S. political season swirls with its campaign ads and looming debates, I actually watched or listened to very little of the conventions, as they were so late, scripted and full of gasbag posturing. Still, it's been enjoyable to catch up on some fine writing, such as British novelist Martin Amis, who went sort of gonzo a la we all bow to Hunter S. Thompson, to describe Mitt Romney's recent show in Tampa, Florida. Alluding to Romney's pre-convention foreign trip fiascos, he had this to say:
It may be that the heaviest item in the Mormon baggage is not its moral murk or even its intellectual nullity so much as its hopeless parochialism. “A man with a big heart from a small town,” they called him in Tampa. We don’t question the big heart; but we gravely doubt the big mind. The truth is that Romney, who aspires to lead the free world, looks ridiculous when he’s not in America. How can he bestride the oceans—the Latter-Day Saint with the time-proof face, who believes that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri?
Interesting words too on the Congress mano a mano with Obama we have seen in recent years, as well as some thought-provoking long-view historical suggestions.
It has not been pleasant, during this last term, to watch the desacralizing, the chastening, and some might say the attritional coarsening of the young president. And the populace has not liked watching it either: the approval rating of Congress is 9 percent (whereas the first lady stands at a Colin Powell–like 66 ). The violence of Republican rejectionism was vestigially supremacist, just as the love inspired by the Obamas was vestigially abolitionist: the passions that gave rise to 650,000 fratricides do not soon evaporate into nothing.
A very impressive analysis on the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, was by long-time eminent journalist Joseph Lelyveld, and author of a recent controversial (was he gay?) book about Mahatma Gandhi. Looks like a second term is well in store for Obama, who rather than symbolism now needs to use whatever power he will have to work the system and help move the U.S. and the world as he promised initially to a better place. From the Lelyveld article, looking into his convention speech, which was quite sober, underlying confidence, but for what purpose? ours or his?
As the one-liners accrued, the presentation turned personal. “While I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings,” he said, going on to quote Lincoln. The quotation was apt and affecting, but the implied comparison of himself to the sixteenth president may have undermined what was meant as a display of humility.
I heard on the BBC last night a quote from Chicago, with a resident saying Obama should have visited a school or something when he came by for a rare visit, as a thank you or something to his political base, rather than playing an extra round of golf.

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