Check out what I wrote on July 28, 2004 on the old History News Network Blog "Rebunk."
Barack Obama’s speech to the 2004 Democratic convention represented a dramatic break with the past. With the exception of the Kennedy and Johnson years, the Democratic Party has been content to be a coalition of interest groups, while the Republican Party, even in its leanest years, aspired to be a party of consensus. Barack Obama might represent a new direction for the Democratic Party—one where the Democrats could make a legitimate claim to be the keepers of a great American vision for the future.
It was a patriotic speech filled with traditional, Republican themes, as well as Democratic ones. The first politician he mentioned in his speech was Lincoln. His description of his background was moving, appropriate, and contained the elements of a workable vision for this country. America, for Obama, is the land of opportunity. He remarked on the help his family received along the way. His father had a scholarship. Members of his immediate family benefited from FHA loans and the GI Bill. His family dreamed of home ownership, education, and tolerance. He realizes his debt to the past. He acknowledged that his story was only possible in America and that he owed “a debt to all of those who came before me….” Disregarding the economic determinism and conspiracy theories that have infected his party for so long, he argued for the value of the founding ideals. The great events of American history provided the foundation for the opportunities in his life, rather than excuses for his failure.
Of course, the Democrats, and Obama himself, could veer off this admirable path. There are hints that they will. First, Obama’s speech was unique at the convention. Despite his reception, there have been no initiators. Obama’s reference that “our votes will be counted- or at least, most of the time,” was beneath him. The description of the conditions of the working class dipped into some unnecessary demagoguery. But he saved himself (partially) with tributes to hard work, national defense and unity, thrift, patriotism, and community.
But Obama’s sincerity was undeniable. He had an authenticity to him that will cross partisan lines. If he sticks to the ideas enunciated in his speech, he will have a future in American politics without limits."