After my indulgent Mitt-bashing, I promised to apply similar anger to the DNC. I won’t, though. I’ll apply more. I’ll apply more because (naively, optimistically), I expect more from the Dems. However much I read about Romney’s complex successes, or Biden’s gaffes, or Barack’s corruption, my basic understanding remains “Republicans are idiots led by possibly evil idiots” whereas “Democrats are clever people led by flawed but well meaning people.” It therefore (in my idealist alternate universe) behoves the Democrats to do less of the bullshittery for which I attacked the RNC and democracy in general, and their flagrant rhetorical and psychological excesses concomitantly abrade me all the more.
As much as the RNC if not more, the DNC applied all the tricks I rail against here. Virtually all the speeches use the ‘quiet-loud-quiet-loud’ formula designed to whip the crowd into chants of “USA!” or “FOUR MORE YEARS”, with countless flags and slogans as they did so. Biden’s speech was basically a big elaboration of his soundbite “GM is alive and Bin Laden is dead.” Both conventions deployed music (Foo Fighters, James Taylor) to get the crowd going, and the Dems hosted a hot celeb, Eva Longoria, whose speech said basically nothing at all, asides an affirmation that the rich should indeed pay tax.
The emotional level was turned up by Michelle Obama and Dr Biden, both of whom repeated Ryan and Romney’s irrelevant assertions that their spouses and are proud of their kids/family/country. Indeed, Michele, whose speech highlighted how poor the Obamas had been in youth and the way loans etc helped them to the American Dream, was constantly referenced in most speeches, and shots of her stalwart face were intercut with her husband’s rhetoric.
Also annoying, to my mind, was religion’s pervasiveness. On Wednesday, they actually had a nun on stage. Hmm. The main speakers all referenced God or directly quoted scripture. I suppose this does make sense in the context of showing voters’ beliefs are reflected in their policies, but given that really it’s just an assertion of faith to not-scare evangelicals, it’s a bit sick.
Of the speeches, Bill’s was best, because he used facts. It was a decent rebuttal, actually. But still, mocking the opponent’s abilities to use maths (i.e. willfully ignoring the reasoning in their cuts) seems a little perverse. Still, the vast majority of his figures were both credible and relevant – which seems to explain why Romney’s staff stuck to their “we won’t let facts get in the way of our campaign” message, and didn’t fact check Bill at all.
Biden didn’t really say anything other than his slogan; huge use of emotion (wife-love, son-love, military-love, patriotism, personal-Obama-love). His use of emotion in defending Obama’s General Motors/Chrysler bailout both clouded what Mitt actually said about GM, and was a pathetic evaluation of the options – Mitt’s bankruptcy (not his title choice, he meant more ‘controlled bankruptcy/restructuring’) may have made more sense, especially given that the taxpayer is out of pocket on General Motors / Chrysler, and their shares will need to jump $22/share before the state has made back its money. And that jump isn’t going to happen any time soon – in fact the linked article forecasts a $34bn loss. Biden’s point was that the ‘dignity’ and emotive value of jobs was more important than the cold hard figures which straw-Romney (and flesh-me) see.
BO himself was mediocre. He did a token attack on the whole campaign process, which is a little rich given his own Super PAC and massive spending on stuff like the Romney-attack video commercials. What I personally wanted (a zero-rhetoric, total argument speech) was never going to happen, but it’s not too much to ask for a bit more clear policy in his speech. After all, if he’s trying to convince manufacturers and recent grads that there will be work, it’d be nice to know what it is. Really, the policies he actually laid out in this regard were very similar to Mitt’s – more teachers, more energy workers, more ‘bridges, roads and schools’ almost verbatim. Obama might be congratulated for promising much lower numbers (Mitt thought that making USA an energy-autarky would create 12mil jobs) , this is impossible to ‘fact check’ for the time being. At the same time, his and Joe’s support of the welfare state did seem to make sense (in my eyes) – much better than his individual, anonymous examples of welfare recipients persevering or succeeding. Such individual examples, many of which were obviously not benefits of Obama’s policies anyway, lent no support to his arguments and were purely yet more emotional content to whip up the crowd.
Obama’s speech had been partly-leaked as ‘policy heavy’, but wasn’t. Instead we got heaps of meaningless exhortations that ‘you’ (the voter) achieved the good things attributed to Obama, reassertions of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, nods to the Founders (whose intentions, and hypothetical stances on modern issues, are both woolly and irrelevant) and a great deal of emptiness. One of Obama’s main problems is healthcare, yet he barely tried to explain the importance of his changes to it. As for the economy, there was no mention of his supermassive stimulus (a great GOP sticking point). He was so forward-looking that he forgot to point out the (arguable) successes, such as recent job stability and growth, or market improvement.
Further down the bill, we’ve got John Kerry’s monotone defence of Obama’s foreign dealings. Obama claimed to have ended US ‘torture’ – but the horrific incarceration of Brad Manning (the Wikileaks whistle blower) shows this is a contradiction, and Guantanamo Bay’s detention centre still exists. Kerry argued Obama led the world well, and treated its neighbours fairly. His claim that Obama led the air-strikes against Libya is basically a lie – to toot a hesitantly patriotic horn, France and Britain built that coalition. Moreover, the drone strikes against Al Quiada and the Bin Laden raid were (possibly) technically illegal, and Pakistan’s ties with America have been sorely tested. Moreover, whilst I generally support Obama’s negotiation-based approach to Iran, that state’s nuclear programme does not seem to have slowed.
There was also Sandra Fluke, the student Rush Limbaugh had called a ‘slut’ after her
congressional defense of state-sponsored contraception. She didn’t lie, as far as I know, and her argument was good, if simple. Republican criticisms of her generally totally ignore her arguments for the Pill in any case; Democrats probably are better for women’s and homosexual’s rights (e.g. by ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), although Obama could have done much more for homosexual marriage, and was arguably only forced into a public declaration of his marriage stance by a Biden gaffe.
The whole business about Jerusalem being in the platform doesn’t bother me too greatly in itself, but does demonstrate more pandering to the Jewish vote, and a deliberate disbelief in Israel’s various ongoing international crimes. If BO really upset due process to get it passed, that’s pretty bad too.
In comparison, the Dems weren’t as bad as the Reps. The main speakers didn’t so much lie through their teeth, as forget to mention anything inconvenient. Clinton was the star, deploying actual facts to convincing effect, although of course his various reframings, statistic-wieldings, comparisons to his own administration and emotive-but-empty history quotes could all be attacked. In honesty, I went to bed last night buoyed by Obama’s spiel; but in the cold light of examination, my hope was weakened. Once again, I see this multi-million dollar pageantry as evidence for better voter education, because if you were to vote for either party on the basis of these conventions, you’d be voting near-blind.