Friday, September 07, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities: Tampa & Charlotte

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Like many people who voted for President Obama in 2008,  I went into watching  the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida with a sense of dread.   I knew that  the  GOP,  deciding  they were not bound by the need for facts,  would throw stink bomb after stink bomb at the President and the Democrats.  I  had to force myself to watch, fully expecting a massive perfectly produced info-mercial for a Romney Presidency.  The speakers would invoke a Norman-Rockwell image of America,  and stoke  a fire under voter impatience with a sluggish economic recovery.  It would be a media blitz that Democrats would never be able to compete with,  and would leave supporters of the President even more disheartened.

What a difference  two weeks makes,  huh?

First in Tampa,  the sense of angry entitlement  that permeated the  GOP gathering  was at times overwhelming.  When Ann Romney  exclaimed  that "this country belongs to us!"  it came across not as a positive statement of  populist  inclusion; but rather it echoed  the shrill protest of someone who didn't want anyone different from them  allowed in their country club.

The crowd in the hall in Tampa  was overwhelmingly older  and white.  I watched  the cameras focus on the same three African Americans  so often I found myself feeling embarrassed for them.   The demographic problem on the floor of the GOP convention served only to amplify  the argument that  Republican sponsored  "Voter Fraud prevention" efforts  are clearly  more about preventing  people who don't look like the GOP convention delegates,   from getting to the polls.

But what was most striking  about the GOP convention was the lack of any clear message of why  Americans  should vote FOR Mitt Romney.  There was  lots of air time spent on why Americans should vote AGAINST  President Obama.   But even the convention's   marquee speakers  seemed to go  out of their way to NOT mention their own party's nominee.   New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's speech was  a total non-case for electing  Mitt Romney in 2012 and a clear kick off speech for a Christie 2016 campaign.

Then we had what is now the most memorable moment of the entire GOP gathering.  Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood and....  the Chair.

The Eastwood disaster  would go on to overshadow  the most important speech of Mitt Romney's political life to date.

So we move on to the following week.. This past week in  Charlotte, North Carolina, and Democrats  found themselves  feeling  .... unexpectedly pretty good.    But  this being the Democratic Party,  a party that has a clear historical track record  of  snatching  defeat  from the jaws of victory at every opportunity;  I was still nervous.   The Democratic Convention had to hit the ball out of the park from  Day One.  So still feeling a sense of trepidation, I  sat down on our couch, and  tuned into the  CSPAN feed being carried on the BBC Parliament channel, and  saw this...

Michelle Obama,  Julian Castro, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick didn't just hit  home runs,  they all knocked  the ball clear out of the park.   I  found myself  sitting on the edge of the couch, my eyes glued to the screen and for the first time since  the 2010 midterms,  thinking  the Democrats may actually  know what they are doing!

Still,  the roller coaster of  ups and downs  that has been  the past four years has taught me to be more cautious than optimistic.   Fully aware than day one could well have been just a well planed fluke.  I tuned in for day two.

Like Mitt Romney,  Barack Obama may find that his own speech accepting  his party's nomination was overshadowed by a previous speaker.   But unlike at the GOP convention  the speech  that overshadowed  the President's  was a full throttle, brilliantly constructed  case for  why Americans  should vote for Barack Obama,  by a man who can truly say he understands  what it's like to  sit  behind the resolute desk in the Oval Office.  

What  was most striking to me, watching both  conventions  pretty much gavel to gavel,  is  how the opposing party responded  during  the other's convention.   During the  GOP convention,  Democrats and liberal pundits  had a field day  fact checking the major speeches to point out  the  inaccuracies and misstatements.   The best the GOP could muster during the Democratic shindig  were half-hearted whines about how the DNC Platform didn't mention "God" or  say how the  capital of Israel should move from Tel Aviv to  Jerusalem.

When that didn't  gain any real traction  the big talking point for the GOP and conservative pundits was how the decision to move the last nights speeches indoors from a stadium to convention hall to avoid predicted thunderstorms,   was really prompted by a fear of empty seats.  What Fox News somehow forgot to report today  was how the stadium was in fact sold out,  and  it poured rain in Charlotte last night.

But as we know,  the GOP has decided  they are not going be hampered by facts...

The election is still  60 days away, and that is a lifetime in Presidential politics.  Attention now shifts towards the upcoming Presidential and  Vice Presidential debates.    As they say in  punditry,  anything can happen.   But  as we turn the page on the 2012 political conventions,  it's clear the momentum is with the Democrats.

And it's about time ....

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