Saturday, July 23, 2016

Are You Ready for Some Politics?

This will be the last weekend at home for me until mid-August.  That means there will be no more blogs for a few weeks.  It also means that I won’t be able to write a timely blog about the two Presidential Conventions; I won’t be able to put them side by side and provide the kind of would-be “objective” analysis worthy of the moniker Empathic Rationalist.  So my choice is clear:  I can either analyze the Republican Convention and let the Democrats do their thing without offering commentary, or I can punt on the Four Days in Cleveland and talk about something else entirely – like, oh I don’t know, the fact that the Olympic Games are about to be played in a filthy city without a suitable infrastructure.

I gave it a few seconds thought, and here’s the verdict:  given that we’re smack in the middle of an incredibly pivotal fortnight of politics, I cannot avoid that topic.  But what I won’t do is lend my voice to the chorus of liberals who are addicted to incessant GOP bashing.  I’m sorry, but for the better part of the last year, I’ve been listening to center-left pundits and reading center-left Op/Ed writers sound off against Trump and his “base” to a degree that far exceeds what any other politician and voter block have been subjected to in my lifetime.   For the first time in my life, I’ve started to appreciate what my conservative friends have been saying about the “liberal media.” What more can be said in that regard that hasn’t already been said?  Even in this blog I’ve spoken about why it makes sense to vote for Hillary Clinton in November. To be clear, I saw nothing in Cleveland that even for a second caused me to waiver in that assessment.   But why would I want to pile on Trump and his base yet again, when that’s all that anyone in New York and Washington DC has been doing since the moment Trump descended the escalator and proclaimed his war against illegal-immigrant rapists? 

Perhaps it would be more novel, more appropriate, for a Democrat like me to say something positive about the GOP Convention.   How’s this – I was impressed with all four of the Trump children who were given a speaking role.   I listened live to the speeches delivered by Tiffany, Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, and each one did well.  Ivanka in particular shined as someone who came across as intelligent, charismatic, and most importantly for my taste, somewhat progressive.  I wouldn’t exactly use that term for the Trump sons, but they came across as likeable nonetheless.   I’ve learned not to evaluate a person’s likeability by the extent to which their political views comport with my own. 

So yes, give Donald Sr. credit for raising accomplished children, rather than spoiled rich kids whose sense of entitlement has overwhelmed their work ethic.  There are surely plenty of those types lounging around country clubs and resort hotels; they just don’t happen to be named Trump. 

I would also give Trump credit for giving Cruz the microphone and allowing him to create what truly was one of the most dramatic moments I’ve ever seen on television.   Cruz essentially filibustered for 15 or 20 minutes, worked his rhetoric up to a crescendo, and then, just at the point where he seemed poised to endorse Trump and raise the roof, he turned the tables and essentially told his rival where to stick it.   And then he stood there, smiling, with boos raining on him from hither and yon, satisfied that he had finally vindicated the honor of his father, his wife, and last but not least, himself.  (I bet those “Lyin Ted” comments hurt most of all.)  Trump had to know that Cruz was capable of pulling this stunt, and yet he let it happen.   Such is the mentality of a natural showman who believes that all publicity is good, positive or not.  As a consumer of political theater, I was entertained as Hell.

Then again, as an observer of political history, I do have to ask the Donald one question: couldn’t you have asked the Comic Actor from Texas to speak on Tuesday night so that he wouldn’t upstage your Vice Presidential nominee?   Pence actually gave a very good speech, one that included the best line of the Convention (that Hillary is really running for the title of “Secretary of the Status Quo”), but because Cruz was allowed to speak on Wednesday night, nobody other than political geeks like me remember a word that Pence said.   He deserved better.

Other positives?  How’s this – I thought Laura Ingraham gave an excellent speech.  Her job was to whip up the base and create energy in the room early in the evening, and she did that job very well.  And Melania?  She spoke well and endearingly.  And assuming that she wasn’t the one who contributed the plagiarized paragraphs, I wouldn’t hold the scandal against her at all.   She never said that she was a speechwriter.  She doesn’t even come across as wanting to be a public figure.   Personally, I feel bad for her that those two plagiarized paragraphs ended up in her speech.  I truly wish that hadn’t happened.

As for the speech given by Donald Trump Sr., I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about it, so I won’t say much about it.  But I will add this – I didn’t hear anything in that speech that makes me want to compare him to Hitler or Mussolini, which is an important point to make since so many others seem to want to talk about a Trump Presidency as Hitler’s Second Term.  That meme is about as exaggerated as Trump’s doom-and-gloom assessments of our nation.   Trump’s campaign surely is flawed enough that liberals shouldn’t have to resort to hyperbole in order to criticize it.

So there you have it – a few words about a Convention that so many of my fellow Democrats wouldn’t deem worthy of their time to watch.  I’m not ashamed to say that it was a fun spectacle.   When I looked at the people in that Hall, I didn’t see lunatics, I just saw Americans – people who, like me, are not happy with the way things are going in this country and are searching for an alternative (albeit one that is different than the alternative I would have chosen).   Yes, I was offended by the “Lock Her Up” chants, but do you know what?  So, apparently, was Trump – in the middle of his speech, he reacted to those chants by gesturing that the chanters should knock it off, because the goal was not to imprison Hillary but merely to defeat her.   It was a nice moment, the kind that doesn’t fit with the “Fuhrer” narrative that the Washington Post, New York Times, and MSNBC have been peddling for many months.

Next week in Philadelphia, we are bound to see a Convention that is infinitely slicker and more traditional than the last one.  Next week in Philadelphia, we are bound to see a Convention that is also treated more favorably by the pundits.  The narrative is predictable – “Now THIS is a political convention.  Last week’s was just a circus.”  Surely, we will witness a methodical effort to build up to quite a crescendo, but unlike Cruz’s speech where the crescendo built to an epic “F U,” this time it will build to an epic celebration.  We can expect a sustained, joyous tribute to a woman who has been hailed as the “most qualified person ever to run for the Presidency” and who is almost universally expected to finally “break the glass ceiling” that has lasted for 240 years of American history. 

Here’s the rub, though.   Eight years ago we saw an incredibly “successful” Democratic convention by any measure.  It led to the election of another pioneer – the first African-American President in U.S. history.   And now, we’re likely looking at the likelihood that for the sixth time in seven elections, the Democratic candidate will get more votes than the Republican.   I will vote for that candidate.  But when all the glad handing has subsided, and all the smiles are gone, and it’s time for the Democratic Party to actually govern, it will be faced with a grim realization.   Actually, it will be faced with several grim realizations.  
  • We have a massive climate change problem that is likely ultimately to kill millions upon millions of people in some of the warmer, poorer nations of the world;
  • We are facing economic inequalities in our nation that exceed anything we’ve seen in our lifetime;
  • We have a generation of adults who for the first time in US history expect their children to be poorer than they are;
  •  We in the West are finally reaching the point Israel reached decades ago where terrorist attacks are becoming commonplace; and
  • Despite having fought a Civil War that supposedly gave us a unified national consciousness, we are now splitting apart at the seams, beset by the kind of polarization that has led the members of my political party to refer to the region that supports the other political party as “Jesus Land.”  And no, that’s not a compliment.
The Hope and Change that bloggers like me called for eight years ago hasn’t exactly solved all of our problems, now has it?  So Hillary Clinton had better not be running this year for the Secretary of the Status Quo.  If she does, she may indeed win the election this year and again in 2020, but that would not be a cause for celebration, glass ceilings or not.   

Like Bernie Sanders said – it is time that we set our sights high.  Even if we don’t reach our goals, at least we might make some significant progress.  Stated differently, it is no longer acceptable to tolerate the mess we’re in, and it’s certainly not acceptable to sugarcoat it and celebrate.  Though it remains possible to exaggerate the extent of those problems, as was demonstrated on Thursday night, the choice shouldn’t be between bad and worse.  It should be between the status quo and better.  For the Democrats, merely concentrating on winning elections has been the status quo.  I’m still waiting for something better.

No comments: