Tonight's the night! When Hillary walks out on stage to say hello, she'll have the attention of the whole country — but after Obama's warmup yesterday, some members of the audience might be a bit more receptive than they expected to be, much like Adam the black Power Ranger. (I'll explain that in a moment.)
A low rumble of shock has been rippling through conservative circles for the last 12 or so hours, with Republican commentators stunned to have actually enjoyed some of the things Obama had to say. After years of insisting that theirs is the party of fiscal responsibility and dignity and trust, it's suddenly become awfully difficult to make that claim with a straight face. They're starting to realize that there's a party that speaks to their values — and it's not the one represented by a tax-dodging bankruptcy-declaring pro-wrestling grifter.
"Great speech. And we made it easy for him," said Rory Cooper, a Republican strategist. Rich Lowry at the National Review tweeted, "American exceptionalism and greatness, shining city on hill, founding documents, etc—they're trying to take all our stuff." And Bush spokesman Tim Miller wrote, "Will a Trump apologist explain to me why an 18 yo watching the conventions would want to be a Republican? We're giving away a generation."
"A speech to make Republican elites feel sickened (as they should be) by what their party has nominated," tweeted NY Times columnist Ross Doubthat.
If we were to compare the American political system to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers — as all the great thinkers as our time do — the Republicans can be represented by Adam right after Dulcea gifts them with the animal-spirit powers of the Ninjetti.
"Adam, what's wrong?" asks Dulcea, a wise master warrior.
Adam looks dismayed at the animal spirit he's received. "I'm a frog," he says, sadly.
I don't know what it says about me that I thought of this scene when reading conservative reaction to Obama's speech. Ross Doubthat might as well have been looking glumly down at his chest and sadly mumbling, "I'm a Democrat."
How'd Obama do that? (And more importantly, where has he been hiding the Zords all this time?) Well, last night's speech primed America to listen to Hillary in a couple of ways. First, he tore into Donald Trump: "Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled."
Next, he morning-in-Americaed us: "The America I know is full of courage and optimism and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous." This could easily have ben a line in a Ronald Reagan speech, as could this: "And look, I'll admit it, maybe I was a little nervous addressing such a big crowd. But I was filled with faith; faith in America, the generous, bighearted, hopeful country that made my story, that made all of our stories possible."
And then he reminded the Republicans that Trump is leading them off into the weeds: "But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn't particularly Republican and it sure wasn't conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other and turn away from the rest of the world."
Follow that with some more blah-blah-blah praise for Americans, and then bam, right into Hillary: "And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, has devoted her life to it; a mother and grandmother who would do anything to help our children thrive, a leader with real plans to break down barriers and blast through glass ceilings and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American, the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton."
Just imagine the sensible Republicans sinking down in their chairs. "Oh God," they mutter, "what if he's right?"
So now the ball's teed up for tonight. Hillary's just going to need to give it a little tap to get it rolling downhill, gathering as many Never-Trump Republicans as possible. We might actually win this one.