CHARLOTTE — The Democratic National Convention kicks off tonight with one of its wise men stepping into the spotlight. Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) will take the podium at the Time Warner Cable Arena around 8:30 p.m. When I caught up with him on College Street here, I asked him what three things he hopes to leave with the American people.
“First of all, I want people to know that this president has gotten this country moving in the right direction,” Clyburn said. “I want people to know that the gloom and doom they heard last week down there in Tampa, Florida, is all that — gloom and doom. And we ought not be governed by their foolishness.
“I also want people to know that it will take energy to win this election. Not money, but energy. And what we’ve got to do is stop worrying about the money and create the energy.”
That last point I found curious because if there is one thing Democrats flooding Charlotte have already that Republicans didn’t in Tampa, it’s energy. Did Clyburn’s concern about energy mean that he didn’t think people would show up in November?
“Oh, I don’t think that at all. I think if we don’t do our jobs here that could be the case. But I have every confidence that we will do our job,” said Clyburn. It should be pointed out that he is the only Democrat from the Palmetto State in Congress.
Politicians can’t help but give other politicians advice, particularly if that politician is the president of the United States. So I asked Clyburn what one or two things President Obama needed to provide the American people in his speech for it to be deemed a success. “I think he has to lay out the competing vision that he has with the other side,” he said. “And what he has to do is say to the American people, ‘Here is where we are headed. And it may not be as fast as we’ve gone [before], but we’re doing it in such a way that it will last.’ So, haste makes waste and he should always remind us [of] that.”
I didn’t have a chance to ask Clyburn the “Are you better off now than four years ago” question. But judging from his answer above, the answer might have been “yes, but . . . .” Yes we are, considering that the economy isn’t shedding 800,000 jobs every month as it was when Obama came into office. But with 8.2 percent unemployment and so much economic uncertainty facing the American people, more work remains to be done.
Ultimately, the rock-bottom question is this: Is Obama the man to lead that effort? The folks in the hall are convinced of it. It’s the all-important undecided folks watching at home who must be persuaded.