Well here we are. August is behind us, the Republicans have had their Convention and the Democrats are getting ready to put their show on in Charlotte over the course of this week. Today, we’ll recap the GOP’s moments of glory/shame/ennui and preview the Dems’ coming convo and its likely movements of glory/shame/ennui.
Political conventions have morphed over the years from wildly unpredictable and chaotic drinking binges into highly scripted and predictable drinking binges. Much of the public is bored with the process, as steadily declining ratings on broadcast/cable and an ever-shrinking window of prime time coverage will attest. The quadrennial gatherings have much more to do with firing up the faithful (and the financial moguls who seek to gain influence) than actually winning over the undecided or unmotivated masses.
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The obvious threat to the GOP’s four three days of glory—the rabble of Ron Paul’s insurgency—never had a chance in the face of a tightly scripted narrative designed to put a positive spin of the candidacy of one Mitt Romney and his Ayn Rand totin’ sidekick, Paul Ryan. The Paulista faction was ungraciously shoved aside and told not to let the door hit them on the ass on their way out.
GOP Convo upstaged by two dudes: Isaac & Eastwood
The Republicans spent $2.5 million on staging for their Tampa gathering, only to have their narrative upstaged by two dudes; one named Isaac and the other named Eastwood. The allure of a strong speaking performance by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was undone by the realization that her inability to pass the ideological purity tests demanded of GOP candidates these days meant that she was merely a sop—a PR ploy– to a public weary of divisiveness. Lord only knows what somebody like that would do if elected. She might, gasp, compromise or even raise taxes…
Meanwhile, a little further north up in the piedmont of North Carolina, the Democrats have been gathering over the past few days in preparation for their big event. By design, this convention will be only three days long, and the staging/scripting is even more elaborate, culminating in an acceptance speech by the President in a 75,000 seat arena on Thursday.
Democrats to broadcast convention in living color
The Charlotte convo will make for better television, with more celebrities and a cast of thousands that better mirrors the populace as a whole. Say what you will about the GOP platform/ideology, their show in Tampa, as the President pointed out yesterday, could have been broadcast in Black and White.
An article in the Sacramento Bee points out just how striking the differences in the composition of the delegates to the conventions are: 28% of the Democratic delegation is Latino vs. 7 percent of Republican delegates; 20% of the Democratic Party’s delegates are African American vs. 3% of the Republican Party’s delegation and more than one in 10 Democratic delegates self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
The squabble-fests of Democratic conventions in past years will be forgotten this week; old ideological wounds have been patched over (for the moment) as the party marches towards the fall elections with a singular purpose and a President who’s weathered the most brutal partisan assault ever mounted in U.S. history. Never before has the opposition party in American politics made limiting an elected President to a single term (before he’d made a single action, other than his inauguration speech) the public centerpiece of their strategy.
For this reason, if no other, the differences of opinion on policy within the Democratic Party will be minimized in the near future. A bad outcome for the Party in November, of course, will change all that.
Fear and Loathing vs. Advice and Scorn
It will be hard to even walk by a TV news show or read a newspaper this week without getting an earful of advice/scorn about the future for the Democratic Party and Barack Obama . Let’s start with the scorn, since Papa Doug’s minions in Mission Valley laid it on pretty thick on today’s UT-San Diego editorial page. The lack of actual facts or reality behind this analysis is typical:
But to hear business leaders explain why there are 5 million fewer people working now than in 2007, the president very much bears part of the blame. What stifles growth? Higher costs, whether due to heavier regulation or taxes, and uncertainty over future government actions. Between the Obama administration’s eagerness to micromanage banks and corporate finance, its commitment to a much costlier health system and its advocacy of higher taxes on small-business owners, you have a formula for stagnation.
National unemployment of 8 percent may be the “new normal” under a president like Obama. It wouldn’t be if we had a leader who had a clue about how to create jobs – ones that last and don’t rely on taxpayer subsidies.
Come Jan. 20, here’s hoping the “new normal” in the White House will be someone with a sophisticated economic worldview – not views reflecting the anti-business conceits and clichés of the faculty lounge.
Now, let’s get to the advice part of the convention conundrum. Jeff Mason over at Reuters has an article up that’s pretty clearly drawn from what the Democratic Party’s leadership envisions for this week’s get-together. What they’re hoping for is a clear contrast in both tone and substance from what the GOP presented in Tampa last week:
Dogged by a sluggish economy and in a tight race with Republican rival Mitt Romney, Obama will use his time in the spotlight on Thursday to focus on education, tax cuts for those making less than $250,000, energy, immigration and social issues, his advisers indicated.
By talking in more specific terms than Romney did last week, Obama’s team hopes to draw a contrast between the two men.
The president’s team believes that Romney missed a big chance during the Republican convention to lay out a blueprint for fixing theU.S. economy.
Romney called for fewer government regulations and lower taxes but offered few details in a speech that emphasized his biography and amounted to a rebuttal of months of attacks from Obama’s team. The Obama campaign has cast the former private equity executive as an aloof tycoon who is out of touch with middle-class America.
Talking about the enthusiasm gap in 2012
Anita Kumar at McClatchy talks about the presumed “enthusiasm gap”, i.e., the perception that voters are not as enthusiastic about the Democratic ticket this year, and what the democrats need to do to address this:
“He should fire people up by looking forward, not looking backward,” Drew Lieberman, a Democratic political consultant, said of Obama.
Democrats hope to contrast the two parties’ policies on social issues, such as abortion rights, the environment, and most important, the plight of the lower and middle classes.”It should be more about going forward,” Kohut said. “Lots of people think we haven’t made a lot of progress, and you can’t convince them.”
But independent pollster John Zogby said Obama and Democrats have done a poor job of touting their record and should take time at the convention to do so. For example, he said, they need to better explain that federal stimulus money was spent on important projects, and the benefits of the health-care law. “He has a story to tell, and he needs to tell it,” Zogby said.
The Republicans’ electoral strategy regarding Obama thus far has been to repeat early and often what they point to as a failed record of promises made in 2008, a tacit acknowledgement that many voters were smitten by the positive “hope & change” elements of candidate Obama’s first campaign. The Washington Post ruminates about just who is to blame for the current torpidity in the economy and the national psyche:
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said there has been a misunderstanding of just what Obama was talking about in 2008 when he called for a new politics.
“The president didn’t promise an era of kumbaya politics in which everyone agreed,” he said. “The primary thing he talked most about was that politicians too often ran from big problems that had haunted our country for decades. Whether folks like it or not, he did jump in and take on very big problems with full knowledge that they would have political consequences for him.”
We met an implacable opponent in the Republican leadership,” said David Axelrod, senior strategist for Obama’s reelection campaign and former White House senior adviser. “They made a decision, and they’ve been very open about it, that from Day One they weren’t going to cooperate on any major issue.”
To Republicans, it is the story of a president who arrived in Washington with big majorities in the House and Senate and decided to ram through a series of liberal initiatives with little regard to the ideas or sensibilities of the other party.
The chattering class checklists
The chattering class has plenty of advice for the best way for the Dems to emerge from their convo triumphant. Both the New York Times andThe Washington Post have checklists (five and eight item agendas, respectively). You could summarize their concerns as:
- Don’t screw up
- Focus on the contrasts between the parties
- Fire up the base
- Remind everybody often about the successes of the Clinton years
One thing that is important to note is that the location of this year’s Dem convo. North Carolina is, by all accounts, not the most labor friendly state in the union. Polls show the presidential race to be in a dead heat at present in the Tar Heel State; Obama won by only 14,000 votes out of 4.3 million cast in 2008, becoming the first Democrat to take the state since 1976.
Aside from the motivational part of the electoral equation in Carolina and their 15 electoral votes, the San Francisco Chronicle has an excellent story up about one other crucial factor could be turnout driven by the racial and sexual politics of the Bible Belt. Obama’s stance on gay marriage has evangelicals on the warpath, but the demographic makeup of the State is changing rapidly in a way that favors Democrats in the long run.
There are plenty of other aspects of the Democratic convention to cover, and we’ll get to as many as we can as the week rolls on.
On This Day: In 1838 Frederick Douglass boarded a train in Maryland on his way to freedom from being a slave. In 1895 the first professional football game was played in Latrobe, PA (home of Rolling Rock beer, BTW). The Latrobe YMCA defeated the Jeannette Athletic Club 12-0. In 1992 David Bowie appeared on the cover of “Architectural Digest.” He was the first human on the cover in 4 years.
Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Escondido (Welk Resort 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive) 3 – 7 pm
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