I have been thinking a lot about the 2 conventions we have witnessed in the past 2 weeks. There are some interesting differences and there are some troubling differences.
I noticed that the DNC made a point to honor each of the individuals who took part in the primaries. The roll call vote was especially dramatic. The hand off from the state of New Mexico (home of Bill Richardson) to the state of Illinois (home of Barack Obama) to the state of New York (home of Hillary Clinton) was spine tingling as Hillary herself called for an end to the roll call and a nomination by acclamation – one party one voice. I know all of Hillary’s supporters were not completely happy, but I am pretty sure they would not have been happy with anything short of Hillary as the nominee.
The RNC in contrast did not honor all those who participated. Notably, Ron Paul was not invited to speak and his supporters were not allowed to cast their votes for him at the convention, even though he had more delegate than some of those who spoke.. Yes, some of the other candidates spoke at the RNC, but certainly not all.
I also noticed that the speakers at the DNC had one thing in common, almost completely. Each speaker, especially those who had served in the senate, referred to John McCain as a true friend. All of the speakers both mentioned and honored John McCain’s service to his country both as a serviceman and as a US Senator. There was always a note that John McCain is a good and honorable man.
The tone at the RNC was much different. I heard no mention of Barack Obama as a good man or as a man who loves his country and wants what is best for it. I heard no mention of Barack Obama in any positive light for that matter. And, what I did hear about Barack Obama was mocking and condescending and much of it was simply false.
And finally, I found a troubling comparison being made over and over. The comparison is between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. There are two things about this comparison that bother me. First, it is clearly an attempt to distract voters from John McCain – kind of like in the Wizard of Oz when the wizard is revealed and demands that they “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” The second thing about this comparison that is troubling is that Sarah Palin is the vice presidential candidate and comparing herself to Obama lessens Obama. I know the argument is that John McCain is old and might die while in office, but if that concern is so great that we are actually going to compare John McCain’s VP with the democratic candidate for president, perhaps John McCain should not be running at all. If on the other hand we are not that concerned about McCain’s health, then this appears to be nothing more than an attempt to reduce Barack Obama to a vice president. We need to make sure that we, the voters, keep the comparisons as they should be – we are comparing John McCain to Barack Obama and ultimately one of these men is going to be the president. We are comparing Sarah Palin and Joe Biden as vice presidents knowing that the influence they have over policy will be substantially less than the president’s influence.
The point comes down to this: the DNC made sure to include all of those who supported all of the candidates for the democratic nomination. The DNC orchestrated and choreographed details so that the story they told was one of both party unity and national unity. Lincoln’s words “a house divided against itself cannot stand” had real meaning and the DNC story was one of strengthening the house of the Democratic Party and the nation. The RNC also orchestrated their convention to tell their story. But what was the story of the RNC and the Republican Party? I am not sure I heard a single theme other than Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are elitist, tax and spend liberals. I heard that I should continue to be afraid of terrorists. I heard that under the Democrats my taxes will go up, up, up (even though I make significantly less than $250,000 so I would likely see tax decreases under an Obama presidency). In short I heard that we should continue to live in a polarized divided country where the few hold power and the many who work hard to improve their communities don’t have any “real” responsibilities. I heard that it is better to live in the us vs. them world. And I heard statements I know to be false – statements like Obama has never authored any legislation when in fact he has authored, sponsored and supported lots of legislation during his time in the US Senate (136 bills sponsored and 653 bills co-sponsored by Obama since 2005 while McCain has sponsored 537 bills and 1230 bills co-sponsored since 1993). It is very, very wrong to compare Sarah Palin to Barack Obama because Sarah Palin is NOT running for the President of the United States
The nagging sense I have is that voters are in for 2 months of ridiculous and childish name calling and lying from the Republican Party and the Decomcrats’ responses and fact checks on lies and futile attempts to direct the conversation back to the issues that are actually important. For example, I don’t care that Sarah Palin’s daughter is pregnant but I do care that Sarah Palin opposes real sex-education in favor of abstinence only education which has been shown many times to simply not work. I don’t care that John and Cindy McCain own more homes than they can count, but I do care that John McCain says the economy is fundamentally sound as home prices and sales fall while unemployment and foreclosures rise.
My nagging sense is that in a fight for power for parties, the people are being left out, again.