The Democrats strike back
As I write this, the Democrats are in Charlotte, North Carolina en masse; the three-day DNC national convention is rolling.
This could well be the most important convention in recent memory for the party; they headed into the mega meeting with a lead so insubstantial as to represent a virtual tie and knowing that the upcoming elections, if lost, will herald the unravelling of everything President Obama has started, and the reversal, where possible, of all of his accomplishments. The Republicans harbour such a profound fear and loathing of Obama that on the day of his inauguration, they swore to destroy him even if it means destroying the country in the process. It is their stated mission to obstruct everything he does, whether they agree with it or not; they will do anything at all to prevent the president from notching anything resembling a success. If there was any way to do it, the Republicans would revive Osama Bin Laden so they could accuse Obama of being soft on terrorism.
The Republicans have just wrapped up their own curious, even somewhat bizarre convention. Mitt Romney, the “oh, well,” candidate, walked into the convention with the numbers to seal the nomination, but he had utterly failed to inspire anyone. He will be fielded as the Republican candidate, but most see him as a placeholder; the really interesting candidates used the convention to dip their toes in the waters of the 2016 election. The Miami convention saw a series of Republicans trotted out one after another to slag the president, and almost as an afterthought, to endorse Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as candidates. With the exception of Anne Romney, who predictably spoke glowingly about Romney in a very good speech, the focus was on vitriolic, bitter, harangues regarding Obama. There were thinly disguised racist remarks, hints of birthism, but most disturbing, the speeches were riddled with patent lies. And many of the speakers, most obviously New Jersey Governer Chris Christie, were there specifically for the soft opening of their 2016 presidential campaigns.
The surprise speaker, as everyone now knows, was none other than Dirty Harry himself: Clint Eastwood. In what was perhaps the most surreal moment at any party’s convention in American history, the eighty-two year old Hollywood icon, Academy Award winning director, and erstwhile mayor of Carmel California took the stage with severe bed-head and looking like he was wearing his father’s suit; then for twice his allotted time he addressed an empty chair he claimed was occupied by Barrack Obama. The skit was rambling, offensive, disrespectful, laced with implied falsehoods, and every bit as disjointed as Eastwood looked. In the wake of this debacle, even Republican stalwarts were hard-pressed to defend Eastwood’s address; the word Alzheimer’s was uttered by more than one pundit.
When it was all over, the Republicans could only point to a one percent bump in the polls rather than the 5 percent traditionally expected in the wake of a successful convention. To consolidate this huge advantage Romney, rather than campaigning vigorously to drive home the points made in the speeches, took time off to go boating.
Now it’s the Democrats’ turn. On day one, the atmosphere was palpably passionate. One after another the speakers gently and without anger or ad hominem attacks refuted the lies told by the Republicans and spoke movingly of the successes of the president. From a double amputee war hero who praised Democratic social programs which were responsible for her successful rehabilitation to the mother of an infant born with congenital heart disease whose life was saved by Obamacare and who is terrified to see it repealed, one by one they prepared the stage for Michelle Obama.
Michelle, in a heartfelt address that never once mentioned Mitt Romney by name, humanised her husband and brought the delegates and the viewers into her life; her speech was poignant, powerful, and a political grand slam home run. Where Anne Romney’s address inspired a ritualistic and perfunctory standing ovation, Michelle Obama had to pause several times during her remarks until the delegates sat down again; the standing ovation she received at the close of her address was genuine and delivered without a single dry eye.
The contrast between the two conventions couldn’t be starker. The Democrats have inspired passion and positive enthusiasm for progress and recovery; the only passion seen in the Republicans’ convention was an irrationally passionate hatred for the president. The Republicans were focussed with a laser-like intensity on economic and property rights, particularly for the rich, the white, and the male constituents; the Democrats thus far have been focussed on human rights and the dignity of all Americans. The Democratic speakers have all emphasised compassion, solidarity, and the human family; the Republicans have been mean-spirited, hate-filled and exclusionary. The Democrats have pointed to the successful beginnings of a difficult recovery and exposed a plan to sustain it; the Republicans have nothing to offer but vague promises of prosperity if they are elected and permitted to cut the vulnerable adrift while providing billions in tax breaks for the wealthy.
As this is being posted, the convention delegates and television viewers are anxiously awaiting the address by former president Bill Clinton; at this moment his popularity numbers are the highest they have ever been. If this pace continues, there is every likelihood that the Democrats will leave this convention with a significant lead in the polls and go into the elections with an advantage that may even outweigh the financial advantage the Republicans enjoy as the result of election spending deregulation that allows several billionaires to spend more on Romney’s campaign than was spent by both candidates in the last presidential election.