For Clinton Democrats, the era of Big Government was over. For Obama Democrats, the era of Big Government is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Occasionally, anyone could nod along at the stories from the podium of old-fashioned American hardiness.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's pioneer relatives crossed the Great Plains on a wagon train, and his widowed mother raised three kids. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro's orphaned grandmother worked as maid and babysitter to give his mom and him a chance. Michelle Obama's dad got up and went to work every day at the city water plant, despite the debilitating pain of multiple sclerosis.
These stirring evocations of family devotion, of community, of hard work in the face of adversity, all turned, in the end, inevitably into apologia for government.
After talking of how the sacrifices of others paved the way for him, Castro asked: "But the question is, How do we multiply that success? The answer is President Barack Obama."
Oh, yes, where would we be without the Great Father? "In tough times," Rybak said, "we come together." To pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, evidently.
"Barack is thinking about folks like my dad," Michelle Obama said, "and his grandmother."
That's what the nearly $800 billion stimulus and the new $2 trillion health care entitlement were all about, according to the First Lady though neither her dad nor his grandmother was a wastrel or a spendthrift.
The Democrats' favorite rhetorical trick is describing how we all depend on one another. We all have parents, teachers and neighbors. And then leveraging these connections to insist on increasing the size and scope of the least personal, least community-oriented institution in American life the federal government.
Washington is not good at promoting aspiration. Democrats always talk of student loans, but the federal aid feeds the maw of an academic-industrial complex that increasingly delivers inferior educations at an ever-spiraling cost.
Neither is the federal government building great things. A posse of hard-hatted MSNBC anchors could scour the country looking for a grand, picturesque project funded by the Obama stimulus to stand in front of during a left-wing public-service announcement, and find nothing.
In reality, the American state is largely devoted to taking money from some people and giving it to others.
This is the model of government that is breaking down in Europe and wheezing here at home. But Democrats can no more criticize government than they could attack their mothers or fathers.
It is what we all belong to and the more belonging the better.