In 2008, Barack Obama and his team crafted three clever revolutions that set the stage for his victory...and for the "fundamental transformation" of the nation of which he often spoke.
The first revolution was built on the cult of his personality. The second revolution was built on his relative youth and the generational change he represented. The third revolution was built on the broader but deliberately ambiguous concepts of "hope and change."
Last night---and throughout the week at the Republican National Convention---Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the major GOP speakers destroyed each one of those Obama revolutions...and replaced them with new revolutions that are, in many ways, even more powerful than the ones Obama originally set in motion four years ago.
Revolution #1. In 2008, Team Obama advanced a very childish version of hope. It was all about aggrandizing the leader, someone who exalted himself even as others exalted him. He suggested that he'd be able to save America---essentially from itself---by merely alighting on the scene. He positioned himself as a Messiah-like figure, never disabusing people of believing that he was---in the words of some of his supporters---a "black Jesus," and implying that he was uniquely qualified to offer salvation by the color of his skin. In 2008, it was all about Obama. More significantly, it was all about having the people honor HIM.
Romney and Ryan have reversed that by placing the hope NOT in themselves, but in America. The theatrics were kept to a minimum. Yes, there was Clint Eastwood and a big balloon drop. But those moments paled in comparison to fake Greek columns, "black Jesus" metaphors, and a weeping Eva Longoria. What we saw from Team Romney this week indicates a real maturing of the nation: we're not about instant gratification and hero worship anymore. We're about telling the truth, fixing our nation's serious problems, and electing grown-ups to do it.
It's no longer about having the people honor the leader. It's now about our leaders honoring US: the American people. And about honoring the great nation we love and want to save.
Revolution #2. Suddenly, Obama is no longer the future. He is the past. And just as suddenly, Romney and Ryan are the future.
Paul Ryan is 42 years old. He's nearly a decade younger than Barack Obama. In his speech Wednesday night, Ryan was full of Generation X exuberance, name-checking AC/DC and Led Zeppelin while happily cheering us on: "We can do this!" (A very clever twist on "Yes, we can!")
But Ryan did something else: by referring to the unemployed 20-somethings with the "faded Obama posters" on their walls and referring to Obama as sailing a ship "on yesterday's wind," he dissed Obama as an out-of-touch old fogey.
This was, perhaps, the biggest slam he could have delivered to a narcissist like Obama who prides himself on being the hippest guy in the room. Four years ago, it was Obama who was the edgy, sexy, new guy on the scene. With a few choice words, Ryan cast Obama as yesterday's newspaper. Must be tough for him to realize that he's been replaced by a younger, hotter model. Paging Norma Desmond!
Revolution #3. Romney and Ryan now own the "hope and change" theme, because they spoke of---and represent---REAL hope and REAL change. Not wispy hope based on a cult of personality or phony change based on self-serving fictions, blame-casting, and smoke and mirrors. Romney and Ryan offer the real hope of real solutions based in real-world problems, and they offer real change based on restoring America to its great foundational principles: limited government, fiscal responsibility, economic liberty, and muscular national defense.
Within the space of a week, the three revolutions Obama launched in 2008 have been dispensed with and replaced by much more authentic revolutions. The revolutions Romney and Ryan are setting into motion will have greater staying power too, because they're based not on the ambitions of men but on the power of the American idea.
Thanks to Romney and Ryan and the way they've co-opted Obama's strengths, the ground is now shifting. Call it a revolutionary earthquake. And it looks like an earthquake powerful enough to take down some styrofoam Greek columns. And maybe a presidency too.