RANDOM THOUGHTS ON EDWARDS SPEECH….It’s quite possible that Convention fatigue set in a bit early and I just wasn’t primed to enjoy Edwards’ speech on Wednesday night. Or maybe the fact that the woman next to me spent the speech listening (not watching, mind you) to her portable tv (with an irritating two-second delay), EVEN THOUGH WE WERE SITTING NOT 100 FEET FROM EDWARDS, distracted me somewhat. But I just didn’t like it much.

To be fair, it’s not the easiest task of Convention Week. The running mate has to introduce the candidate ? whose life story most Americans know by heart at this point; he has to fill the role of attack dog and take down the opposition; and he has the unenviable job of laying out the campaign’s policy agenda in all its wonky glory while also weaving in broader themes and inspirational ideas.

By those standards, Edwards was fine. He is particularly good at humanizing Kerry by consistently referring to him simply as “John.” That’s a nice touch. But despite the riff about “Hope Is On The Way,” I came away feeling dispirited. He’s right ? I do worry about my health coverage and I don’t make enough money to pay my bills and I do know people who have been out of work for a while now. And now I suddenly feel the need to go lie down in a dark room with a cool cloth on my forehead.

Yet I understand why things have gotten worse instead of better over the past few years. But that’s because I’m a political geek and live inside the Beltway echo chamber. Many Americans, on the other hand, might find it helpful if someone told them who was responsible for the situation we’re in right now. Too often, it seems, both the media and Democratic party leaders assume that everyone around the country has been following the ins and outs of Washington politics as closely as they have.

If Edwards is going to implore Americans to “reject the tired, old, hateful, negative, politics of the past,” he needs to make clear who is responsible for the hateful politics, he needs to give examples of how Republicans have changed the rules of the game, of how they have slandered and attacked. Similarly, if he’s going to remind us that life just basically sucks right now, he should tell us who we should hold accountable for that. It’s implied that because the message is to vote for Democrats, Republicans must be the ones to blame. But without knowing that for sure, too many Americans may continue to lump together Republicans and Democrats as being equally responsible for all things bad in politics.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the decision to keep this Convention civil. But there is a difference between hateful attacks on the opposition and simply putting the truth in front of voters. The failure to name names may not hurt the Kerry/Edwards ticket. I can’t help thinking, however, that the near-total absence of references to the Republican Congress during the Convention will hurt candidates further down the ticket. Again, we’ve heard a lot about unjust and irresponsible policies this week — but while they haven’t been portrayed as victimless crimes, they often sound like perpetrator-less crimes.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Amy Sullivan is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about religion, politics, and culture as a senior editor for Time, National Journal, and Yahoo. She was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2004 to 2006.