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Too Much of a Good Thing

By Jon Keller

Let's start with the good news for Barack Obama fans - your guy did his usual excellent job last night. He delivered a well-written speech with his usual energy and eloquence. He looked great and sounded great. Presidential, you might say. He didn't go on too long. He didn't let the adoring crowd stall him out by letting their incessant cheering drag on. He was fine. He'll get a nice bump in the polls, and probably consolidate the progress he made this week uniting his party behind him.

OK, now, the bad news. The speech was too much. Too many promises of too much spending and too many profound changes without any real explanation of how they'll actually happen. Too much talk of a magical, mystical, impossible uniting of a country that has over the last century grown profoundly diverse and ideologically divided in ways that no politician can seriously hope to reverse. Too many nice turns of phrase to the point where none will likely stand out in any swing voter's mind past the weekend, if that. Keep in mind, this is typical of these big presidential nominee convention speeches. That's why so few of them are memorable to anyone but the party insiders.

John McCain will probably repeat the same mistakes next week at his convention. Because that's the kind of culture we have now, a culture of too much. This has always been a big country of big plans and big appetitites. But in recent decades we've become almost obese in so many ways. Too much cultural license without a restraining sense of taste. Too much political extremism. Too much of an edifice complex on things like the Big Dig and the Bush "democratization" of the Middle East. Too much narcissism, too much materialism, too much of everything, when all too often, less is really more. The Republican party has suffered from this disease; that's why they're rightly on the banana peel. But Obama-ism fits the mold too. And it leaves you to wonder - where's a fed-up voter to turn?

Jon Keller blogs regularly for WBZ-TV Boston at Keller @ Large