There are good political speeches and there are great ones and there are those that are choreographed to expand their impact beyond live television and newspaper editorializing to become three dimensional entities on social media outlets. Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention was all three.
It was, first of all, a very impressive speech, well-written and well-delivered in the classical sense. It boasted a compelling, unfolding narrative littered with nice, memorable phrases that built to higher and higher emotional peaks. As a performance, it was objectively good—maybe as good as any of Barack’s. It has garnered near-universal praise from the punditocracy; even GOP firebrands have said nice things about it.
A good speech gets you plaudits; a sterling 21st century speech wraps your message around the internet. By the end of the 26-minute paean to America and her husband, Michelle’s talk was generating 28,000 tweets per minute. Mitt Romney’s speech inspired barely half that, at 14,200 per minute.
That’s the line: “Being President doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.” #DNC2012
— Chris Hughes (@chrishughes) September 5, 2012
Jesus. This speech has left the Romneys in smoldering ruins without once mentioning them.
— David Roberts (@drgrist) September 5, 2012
So Mrs. Obama obliterated Romney on Twitter. She also ruled Digg and Buzzfeed, and spawned a popular Reddit forum called “Michelle Obama is Killing It,” which quickly garnered front page status and some 1,460 upvotes and 3,000+ comments. There were others, including “Michelle Obama for President?” And one post quoting this line —
“And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity. You do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
— got 1,000 upvotes (and likely hundreds of thousands of views) alone.
That line, sandwiched in the middle of the oration, also lit up Twitter. It’s always been important for politicians to include soundbite-sized quotables in their texts. Now, with 140 characters more powerful than ever, perhaps even more so. Obama expertly infused her speech (she reportedly wrote the piece herself) with memorable moments like that—the “reveal” line was similar in import. But the Obama team also goes out of its way to augment the speech itself with extra social media might—like, for instance, releasing this image of Barack Obama and his daughters watching Michelle’s speech in real-time.
This not only serves as an ‘awwwwww’ moment, it rounds out the message of the speech itself. Well, look at that! Obama is a dedicated, good-natured family man after all! Buzzzzz.
Furthermore, beyond communicating the sentiment, those watching the speech while online feel as though they’ve gotten access to an exclusive element of the experience. Obama’s online team is really good at cultivating moments like these—their Twitter rebuttal to Eastwood’s weird chair routine, for example, made any supporter following the whole debacle online feel as though they had the more sophisticated, wittier, and savvier guy in their corner. Here, Michelle’s speech tells you that Obama’s a good dude; the picture confirms as much with tangible supporting evidence.
This kind of stuff helps pundits, readers, journalists, activists, and political junkies plug further into the politician’s message. It’s why the GOP, whose base and operatives are older and less web-literate, routinely feels flatter online, more disconnected. And this will continue to give Democrats a massive leg up in appealing to younger demographics—Obama’s team is in the room with you, blogging and tweeting stuff you like (and blending both into fundraising efforts). Romney’s crew just hired someone to build them a webpage.
Michelle’s speech alone was fantastic. But with some subtle, strategic finessing, it won the internet.