Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Thoughts on Night One of the Convention

Well, if the goal of the first night in Boston was to, as some have said, put a "happy face" on anti-Bush talk and dissent with El Presidente's radical right wing agenda, night one worked out decently. President Clinton's speech seems to have gone over rather nicely, doing a good job of outlining the basic differences between the radical GOP agenda and how it is out of touch with mainstream America, and also glowingly endorsing the Kerry-Edwards ticket, and John Kerry in particular. In some ways, the speech made me miss Clinton even more - love him or hate him (and I have friends who take both sides of the argument), he can give a charismatic speech...unlike the current occupant down the street from my office. It seems to have gotten rather positive reviews from most in the media, even from those that haven't particularly liked Clinton in the past. Even an ideologue like David Frum liked it, even if he didn't like anything else.
In particular, I liked this little bit:
We think the role of government is to give people the tools and conditions to make the most of their lives. Republicans believe in an America run by the right people, their people, in a world in which we act unilaterally when we can, and cooperate when we have to. They think the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their political, economic, and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on matters like health care and retirement security. Since most Americans are not that far to the right, they have to portray us Democrats as unacceptable, lacking in strength and values. In other words, they need a divided America.
I've seldom heard anyone honestly say this, which is something I've believed in for some time. The idea of a "divided America" is something that isn't really all that true - and its just a way of driving a wedge so you can demonize your opponent, as El Presidente and his power mad thugs are so prone to doing. Democrats seldom talk about a divided America held hostage by a small faction of the religious right. If we do, we're demonized as being anti-religion by the right. But its perfectly 'okay' for the right to criticize liberals as somehow 'different' from 'normal' America. David Brooks is particularly guilty of this, IMO.

Moreover, particularly startling was this admission:
Here is what I know about John Kerry. During the Vietnam War, many young men—including the current president, the vice president and me—could have gone to Vietnam but didn’t. John Kerry came from a privileged background and could have avoided it too. Instead he said, send me.
Candor from Bill Clinton? Who'd have thought it possible? You won't hear El Presidente or Dick Cheney or any of the other GOP chickenhawks admit that they dodged the draft, yet they loved to criticize Bill Clinton for that. And now Clinton comes clean. Yes, perhaps this is a double-standard...that it is only important if you served if it is important to winning. But, isn't that what this is all about?

Tonight we get Barack Obama, whom I'm anxiously interested to see speaking - the New Yorker profile of him was so glowingly positive and he does seem to be a rising star. True...this spot in the convention (the "keynote" speech) has often been a kiss of death, but something tells me that this will be a bit different.

Finally, a note on the whole "the Democrats are just pretending they're unified" spin that I've been reading/hearing in the media (a GOP talking point, btw). How exactly is this any different from any convention since 1992? The circus of disunity in the GOP that year and the well orchestrated Clinton convention in New York, combined with the GOP disaster in 1996, have meant that almost all conventions since are largely stage managed affairs. The GOP whitewashed itself four years ago (and is likely to do so again this year) to prevent anyone from seeing its own disunity - why is it only not okay for Democrats to do this? Why is it okay for the GOP to pretend that its party isn't beholdent to extreme right wing religious fundamentalists, that its party members have a rather unsavory record of support for white supremacists in the South, that there aren't people within its ranks whose dedication to "freedom of religion" only extends to those who accept Jesus Christ?


At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re GOP whitewashing:

Perhaps it's just something that the Dems have never had to lower themselves to doing. Granted, it would do wonders for the appearance of party unity... but with only 2 major political parties in this country, one has to wonder just how many Americans (or anyone else in the world who watches elections for American presidents closely) are actually fooled into believeing that the united fronts are more substance than sham.

I'd like to think that the Dems are rather proud of the fact that they *do* in fact represent such a diverse plethora of interests, as being a truer picture of the country than the GOP's one-flat-tax-size-fits-all. If your opposition is banking on conformity, then you win points for every violation of that standard. Classic feedback model.

Of course, when your most vocal and visible constituents are (1) extreme right wing religious fundamentalists (2) white supremacists in the South, and (3) people within its ranks whose dedication to "freedom of religion" only extends to those who accept Jesus Christ -- then who can blame the GOP for prettifying itself?



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