Mitt Romney finally got his chance to speak last night. I thought he gave a good speech that sketched out who he is, what he believes, and where he wants us to go and also sounded themes that are likely to appeal to many Americans who are disappointed in their circumstances and our country’s current condition.
It’s got to be tough to be the nominee at one of these conventions. You must sit there for days while the podium is occupied by others, hoping that no one commits a crippling blunder and the message you want your party to deliver is getting through. Yet at the same time every viewer is moving inexorably toward a “convention fatigue” threshold. You must hope that, by the time you step behind that podium, Americans aren’t so sick to death of speeches that they can’t bear to listen to yours — and you also must hope that you can meet the hour and live up to the accolades that you’ve been receiving over the past three days.
I thought Romney did so, and I think part of the reason for that was that he gave a speech that was true to his character. Romney doesn’t seem like an angry person or a bitter partisan, and his speech wasn’t sprinkled with inflammatory rhetoric or snide jokes about the President. Instead, the tone was more of sorrow than anger, more of disappointment than diatribe. Romney doesn’t want to assume the unnecessary burden of trying to convince people that President Obama is a bad person with evil intent, he just wants to help people understand that the President’s course has been misguided and unsuccessful — and that a different course will be more productive and also, incidentally, more consistent with the America we all have known and cherished.
Some of the themes Romney touched on run deep. Americans are inveterate optimists who traditionally expect a better future for their kids and will work to make that happen — but how can you hold to that belief these days, where you can’t find that job that will allow you to move your family upward? Americans are proud of their country’s accomplishments and heroes like Neil Armstrong — but what does it say when so many of those accomplishments are now decades old, and few new genuine accomplishments are being added to the ledger? America is a land of many freedoms that its citizens hold dear — but how can we hope to continue to enjoy those freedoms when we are yoked to an increasingly insurmountable debt burden financed by foreign governments?
Time will tell, of course, if these themes find a receptive audience among the American people, or whether the themes that President Obama and the Democratic party sound next week win out. That’s what elections are all about.