Tag Archives: Republican National Convention

We’re Better At This (and Other Reflections on the Past Week)

9 Sep

The awesome Jess McIntosh of Emily’s List summed up the Democrat’s week in Charlotte in one pithy tweet: “We’re better at this.”

In the past I’ve often lamented the fact that, while Democrats put forward good, solid candidates for higher office the candidates and the party often  did not tell a good story about these candidates and our collective values.  We have underestimated the power of narrative and the necessity of presenting a candidate who people can relate to, can see themselves liking or even hanging out with.

So which party used their convention to tell a better story about their candidate and values?

Let’s review the Republican week.  Stories about Day One of the their convention were dominated by keynote speaker Chris Christie’s curious decision to leave Mitt Romney out of his speech. Coverage of Day Two focused on vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s Trouble with the Truth, and Day Three, the day when Mitt should have shone — he was upstaged by Clint Eastwood’s transformation into Grandpa Abe Simpson, yelling at a chair.

Poor Mitt, upstaged by Grandpa Simpson.

In these days of instant and decentralized media, and where political conventions are recognized as little more than three-day political commercials, The Democratic Party and the Obama campaign did a fantastic job of telling a story.

I think the most important speech of the week was given by the First Lady. She told a story not just about Barack, her husband, but a story about competing visions of America.  Without ever mentioning her husband’s opponent, Mrs. Obama presented the two candidates as a tale of stark contrasts. She said that families like hers and Barack’s didn’t begrudge others’ success, despite their own struggles; in fact, they admired those who were successful.  But, she underscored, Barack Obama “believes that when you work hard and done well and walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you.”

Huffington Post Sums It Up.

The most soaring moment of that speech, when I literally could not believe the power of Mrs. Obama’s words, came when she painted a picture of an America that overcomes:

 If — if farmers and — and blacksmiths could win an independence from an empire, if — if immigrants could leave
behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores, if women can be dragged to jail for seeking to vote, if a generation could defeat a depression and define greatness for all time, if a young preacher could lift us to the mountain top with his righteous dream, and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love, then surely, surely, we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American dream.

If you missed the speech, stop reading and watch now:

Julián Castro: The American Dream is not a Sprint or a Marathon. It’s a Relay RaceYes, the Republican Convention had New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval speak in Tampa, in an effort to stem the bleeding with Latino voters.   The many Latino speakers at the DNC had an advantage, of course, over their Republican counterparts. The Democratic Party Platform on issues important to Latinos, such as immigration, weren’t written by the likes of Kris Kobach, the virulently anti-immigrant Republican who wrote that party’s “self-deportation” platform.   When Antonio Villarraigosa, Ken Salazar, Cristina Saralegui, Eva Longoria and, of course, keynote speaker Julian Castro spoke to the values of their party, they didn’t have to run from their party’s platform.  All they had to do was point out the differences between the two party’s visions to confirm the choice that the vast majority of Latino have already made to support Barack Obama.Speaking on the same night as the First Lady, the Mayor of San Antonio also presented an eloquent vision of an America where people celebrate success but also help each other out.  In my favorite passage, he said:

In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor. My grandmother never owned a house. She cleaned other people’s houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.

Beautiful.

Oh, and he has an incredibly cute kid, with a mean hair flip:

Bill Clinton & Comparing Obama to Obama

In the lead-up to President Clinton’s Wednesday night speech, the political press fell into one of its periodic fits of convulsive stupidity.  Would Clinton go off script?  Would the “tensions”  in the Obama/Clinton relationship shine through? And, of course, will Clinton outshine or overshadow the President?

Did these reporters not remember writing these exact same stories four years ago?

The former President did a bang-up job making the case for reelection, prompting President Obama to later declare that Clinton should be appointed “Secretary of Explaining Stuff.”

When the President did give his speech on the final night, some in the political press gave it mixed reviews.  From the arena and the reactions there, I felt like the speech did everything it needed to do.  The thing that stands out about those reviews, however, was how they were presented.  Some said he didn’t give the best speech of the convention – that honor went to either President Clinton or the First Lady. Others said that this “wasn’t Obama at his best.”  As a friend pointed out as we left the convention, if they’re comparing Obama to Obama, then I think we’re ok.  I’d add that even if they’re comparing him to Clinton, Joe Biden, or the First Lady, we’re still OK.  Because you know who they’re not comparing him to? Mitt Romney.

Reina Romney Reacts: My Husband has been “Demonized”

Likely unsettled reading headlines like “Very Little Convention Bounce for Romney,” on Sunday morning the Romney campaign dispatched Mitt to Meet the Press, hand-cuffed to Ann Romney, the person in charge of “humanizing” the man who thinks corporations are human.

Really, Ann? The woman who told us she and her husband could relate to everyone’s struggles because they once had to sell some stocks to pay for their rent?  The one with the Olympic dressage horse named Rafalca? The one who told Latino voters to get “past our biases” (Psst, Ann, mija, they’re not biases – we can read English and know his positions)? Reina Romney is going to humanize Mitt?  I guess you have to work with what you’ve got.

So what did La Reina have to say?  Well, for one  they must have figured out that whole  we-ate-tuna-in-a-basement-while-selling-stocks-to-make-rent story didn’t fly with the public, as she know admits “Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives.”  But, she said, her husband is a victim in all of this.  All of this talk about him outsourcing and offshoring jobs, closing factories while making millions, that talk about loving to fire people — all that, well, true stuff, just means her husband “really has been demonized.”

Pobrecito.  Well, not quite.  Pobrecito riquito.

Meanwhile, still a lot of work to be done…

…but Democrats left North Carolina happy to read headlines such as this one: “Obama Convention Bounce Continues to Grow.”

Finally, some personal thoughts

This was my third Democratic convention.  In 2004, I was a Dean supporter who got elected as a national delegate for Edwards.  (Back then, our joke was “Dated Dean, Married Kerry, Still Sleeping with Edwards” — which is so not funny any more).

In 2008, I was an Obama delegate and will never forget that historic speech at Mile-High Stadium. Having lived the Denver experience in all its raw emotion, this convention was different for me.  I went as a DNC member-elect, which means I was there as a “special guest,” not a delegate.  In four years, I get to be a super delegate (I’ve promised everyone who supported me in my DNC run to be as coy about my superdelegate vote as I possibly can be – remember how fun that was?)

Even though I watched with more of an eye toward the outside – constantly checking twitter and other social media to see how media and television watchers were reacting to speeches, I came away so glad to have experienced so many of those speeches live.  In 2008 the GOP and McCain derided Obama as a good speech-giver, sounding what I thought Democrats used to sound like — people who denigrated the power of narrative and artful, passionate story-telling.  We are no longer that party and they are.  So good on us.

Conventions are, indeed, extended commercials.  But they offer a unique opportunity to present a story, a vision for the future.

And you also sometimes get to meet some stars.

Me and That Guy From That Band.

A Chair is Not a House, and Other Reflections on the GOP Convention

1 Sep

Nothing like a Republican convention to put you in the mood for a little bit of Burt. [A little background music, as you read:]

No, a Chair is Not a House. It’s also not a President, but don’t tell Clint Eastwood.

Yes, the last night of the Republican Convention almost broke twitter, what with all the #eastwooding going on. But after a week of what turned out to be some pretty good TV – though not for the reasons the party planners had hoped – one can forgive the escapism of hashtag hysteria. In our household, even the cats got in on the act.

Our guy Steve, got memed. Thank you, classwarkitteh.org!

But, really, Clint’s foray into avant garde performance art was just icing on the cake of a week of cray-cray.

On the first day we had Ann Romney, the woman who wears 900 dollar t-shirts to morning talk show interviews, tell us how she and Mitt once had to eat tuna out of cans and sell stocks to make ends meet.

Wait, what?  Sell stocks?  No wonder all those convention-goers were waving those “home-made” signs (all same writing, same colors) saying “Women love Ann”:  she’s one of us!

To be fair, Ann’s task was a tall one. As comedian Paula Poundstone tweeted, “So few of us have to humanize.”

But humanize the man for whom corporations are human Ann did.  In addition to learning how hard it is to pay rent when you have to call your broker to cash in stocks, we also learned the aspiring First Family love the Modern Family. No, not literally modern families – the TV show. You know, the one with the very funny Latina actress and the gay couple raising children together?  (The producers have since offered Ann a gig, playing a Minister officiating at Mitch and Cam’s gay wedding. So if things don’t go well in November, she has a Hollywood career to fall back on – no more dog days of cashing in stocks for Ann!).

Between Modern Family and Ann reminding us how much she loves women — I mean really, really, loves women — things just got weird. I started to wonder if the campaign had numbers showing that heteroflexibles were the new soccer moms. But, yes, love…

No, Fuck Love, exclaimed the next speaker, Chris Christie. “Tonight we choose respect over love,” screamed New Jersey’s Tough Guy, as he made a barn-burning, compelling case for a Christie Presidency. I hear he also said something about the 2012 nominee toward the end of his sweaty tirade, but by then I was so emotionally whiplashed contemplating the value of love that I had to change the channel to catch up on old Project Runways.

On the second day, Paul Ryan gave a speech so fact-challenged that the campaign spent the next 24 hours explaining how he didn’t really say what he said when he blamed President Obama for the closure of a factory that happened before he took office.

And then, of course, on the last night, the candidate himself was upstaged — by an empty chair.

Diversity Week in Tampa: or,the Quadrennial Brownwashing of the Republican Party

Pity my compatriota from Puerto Rico, Zoraida Fonelladas.

The Republican Committeewoman was drown out by delegates chanting “USA! USA!” as she tried to address the convention.  What originally looked like naked xenophobia (why would anyone jump to that conclusion about Republicans? Pshaw!) was later explained to be related to the ongoing Ron Paul civil war in the GOP.  Whatever the explanation, these were unfortunate optics for a party being trounced with the largest, growing voting demographic in the country.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Zoraida! No te preocupes, mija, it could have been worse.  Dale Gracias a Dios no one pelted you with peanuts.

There was the speculation we get every four years from talking heads – will the parade of people of color on stage mean that the GOP cuts into the Democratic base?  Yawn.

Hey, look, it’s Brian Sandoval!  Surely he will make everyone forget the party’s viciously anti-immigrant platform, written by he architect of “self-deportation” dreams, Kris Kobach.  Look, Susana Martinez! Surely she’ll lull Latino voters into forgetting that candidate Romney has promised to veto the Dream Act and keeps the hateful Kobach as a campaign adviser. Maybe we’ll forget Reina Ann tried to “woo” Latinos by telling us to get over our biases! So charming!

Over there! Surely Condoleeza will get Romney’s poll numbers with African Americans out of negative territory.

Surely Condi will lull black folks into forgetting that the Romney campaign declared “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers” as they repeatedly pushed the lie that the President has gutted welfare work rules. I think those who call this line of attack a racial dog whistle because it’s meant to inspire in white voters anxiety about black welfare queens are just plain wrong.  Dog whistles are supposed to be inaudible to the human ear. You know, subtle.

Maybe everyone will forget that Speaker Boehner this very week spoke what is supposed to remain unspoken – that the GOP strategy is to depress turnout amongst people of color, not win them over.

Yeah, maybe all that will work.

As the Reverend Timothy McDonald wrote, Republican Please!

Minnesota GOP, Well-Represented

It was refreshing to see the Minnesota Republican Party take its dysfunctions with it to the national stage.  A majority of the delegation did not vote for Mitt Romney but for their hero, Ron Paul. They took active part in the Paul Mayhem on the convention floor, and apparently they found that elusive voter fraud the MNGOP is always talking about: “They’re cheating. The Republican National Committee is not transparent and does not have integrity. They stole votes,” said Minnesota delegate Yelena Vorobyov.

The Paulites were still spitting nails upon their return to the Land of 10,000 Republican Recount Debts.  Despite the national declaration of a “unified” party, Paul supporters are still unwilling to say they will support Governor Romney.

So, all in all, a fun week of Must-See TV.

On Monday, TIP will travel to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention. I hope I’ll have time to send a missive or two from there.