Obama’s DNC Speech

An appeal to some pretty basic virtues.

I caught up on Barack Obama’s DNC speech earlier this morning. Without getting into a lengthy analysis, I was struck by the following:

But more than anything, what I know about Joe and Kamala is that they actually care about every American. And they care deeply about this democracy.

They believe that in a democracy, the right to vote is sacred, and we should be making it easier for people to cast their ballot, not harder.

They believe that no one — including the president — is above the law, and that no public official — including the president — should use their office to enrich themselves or their supporters.

They understand that in this democracy, the commander in chief doesn’t use the men and women of our military, who are willing to risk everything to protect our nation, as political props to deploy against peaceful protesters on our own soil. They understand that political opponents aren’t “un-American” just because they disagree with you; that a free press isn’t the “enemy” but the way we hold officials accountable; that our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends on a fidelity to facts and science and logic and not just making stuff up.

None of this should be controversial. These shouldn’t be Republican principles or Democratic principles. They’re American principles. But at this moment, this president and those who enable him, have shown they don’t believe in these things.

Emphasis mine, to which I just wanted to say: This. This. THIS.

We can argue about policy and ideology and party allegiance, but the above list should be something we all agree on and while one can try and parse and interpret some of the items listed above, there are some clear one that lacks any ambiguity.

Trump did use federal law enforcement to clear out peaceful protestors behaving lawfully so that he could stage a photo op.

Trump has repeatedly called opponents “un-American” or the like. One need go no further that the day before the speech to find him accusing the Obama administration of treason:

It is worth repeating that treason is punishable by death.

He, of course, frequently and actively undermines the free press by calling them the “enemy of the people” which implies that he, the leader, knows best as to what the people think and what is good for them, as well as asserting that any negative press about his dear person is the act of a foreign adversary.

This is all crude dictator behavior plain and simple. And it should not be acceptable in American political discourse regardless of whether it comes out of the mouth of a politician you like or not.

And why is it so hard to want “facts, science, and logic” as opposed to “just making stuff up” (such as asserting a willingness to look into junk science claims about plant extracts as promoted by a political ally in the pillow business or the application of powerful lights and disinfectants on, you know, the inside)?

That any of this is tolerated and that insisting that it shouldn’t be is controversial at all is well and truly depressing.

Again: “None of this should be controversial.”

Let me especially emphasize: “we should be making it easier for people to cast their ballot, not harder.”

We can debate things like the need for ID and how to get it to people, and issues like electoral security, but these debates should be about actually protecting the integrity of the process and making sure all American have the chance to be heard in truly free and fair elections, and never should they be a pretense for undermining the process, as is clearly the case with Trump and his allies when they denigrate vote by mail and the like.

The full speech is here (although I will warn that the Chuck Schumer commercials are a bit disconcerting):

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Monala says:

    My daughter came in to listen to part of Obama’s speech, and considered this part a really sick burn:

    “I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.”

    Instead, according to Obama, Trump has “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    And why is it so hard to want “facts, science, and logic” as opposed to “just making stuff up”

    Very few people want facts. Fact #1: we are all gonna die, and most of us will find it an unpleasant experience. Fact #2: Life has no meaning but what we decide to give it. Fact #3: In the endless reach of our expanding universe of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars, each of us is less than a sub-atomic particle in a single grain of sand. Everything we are will be forgotten, no matter what we’ve accomplished.

    Maybe 5% of people get past those three. People lie to themselves which, to me, is the ultimate error. Lies are what you tell other people when necessary; tell yourself the truth.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:


  4. CSK says:

    I see absolutely nothing to disagree with in what Obama said there.

  5. Moosebreath says:

    “An appeal to some pretty basic virtues.”

    Would that they were truly basic.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    I expect the GOPs will bitch that Obama violated the norm of ex-presidents not criticizing the sitting president. But as Obama and Dr. Taylor said, none of this should be controversial.

    And 40+% of us will vote for Trump. It makes one question whether democracy is possible.

  7. Kathy says:

    It is worth repeating that treason is punishable by death.

    It’s also worth noting treason is an act against a country or state which endangers its security (dictatorships have a broader definition of what endangers the state’s security). Not an act against an individual, even if they’re running for president, even if they win the election.

    But in the first place, if Obama spied on trump’s campaign, which would be a crime, why didn’t he pass on what he learned to Clinton?

    None of what trump says makes any sense or retains any plausibility as a lie if you think about ti shallowly and for two seconds. Which is a sad commentary on his followers, supporters, enablers, and those who just don’t give a damn.

  8. @Kathy: Indeed. A full explanation of why he is wrong on that issue was more than I had time for.

    It is fundamentally gross that he acts like some afront to himself would be treasonous–let alone the fact that it is all nonsense.

  9. Scott F. says:

    The last 5 minutes of Obama’s speech, starting with “What we do echoes through the generations. Whatever our backgrounds, we are all the children of Americans who fought the good fight.” was so poignant and authentic that I was taken aback. His despair was laid out for all to see.

    He is genuinely afraid for the future. I don’t believe that fear should be controversial either.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    IIRC, per the Constitution, legal treason can only be committed in time of war. A fact that may save Trump’s own ass if all the facts ever come out.

  11. Kathy says:

    A politician talking like an adult, not inciting hatred, not touting his accomplishments and blowing them out of all proportion.

    It boggles the mind.

  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: Who’s NOT genuinely afraid for the future? Even without a Constitutional crisis involving the election, the reality that the Republican Party is, even in the minds of it’s own leadership, a rudderless ship with no capacity to do policy but large capacity to obstruct it makes me concerned for the future. And my situation is relatively immune from political fallout; I’ll still come out okay if Republicans win and the incompetence continues.

  13. Joe says:

    I try not to dip into Facebook controversies, but sometimes I read them. I came across a gem two days ago. A woman in some vote by mail melee said straight up that voting is so important that we should make it harder, not easier. I had to tie my fingers to the mast to leave that one alone.

  14. DrDaveT says:


    A woman in some vote by mail melee said straight up that voting is so important that we should make it harder, not easier.

    My mother-in-law said that to me a few weeks ago. “People should have to work and sacrifice to be able to vote; otherwise it’s too easy and they won’t think hard about their choices.”

    Then again, my mother-in-law is the most bigoted, privileged, snobbish, un-self-aware person I have ever interacted with on a continuing basis. Her epitaph should be “They’re all alike.”

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Joe: Good choice. I doubt that there’s a single thing that you could have said on that thread that anyone reading it would have cared about.