this election just got a whole lot more interesting.
and Edwards had to go into the convention and
address three salient points. Edwards had to show
that he was more than the pretty-boy piece of
fluff the Republicans were painting him as. Kerry
had to demonstrate that he wasn't the cold and
austere New England aristocrat the Republicans
were painting him as. And they both had to show
that they could counter the right wing propaganda
and fight back.
were successful. Edwards showed his wit and intellect,
along with the drive and compassion that made
him a successful lawyer for the underdog. He showed
his willingness to take on the right wing smear
machine head-on, saying, "Between now and November,
you, the American people, you can reject the tired,
old, hateful, negative, politics of the past.
And instead you can embrace the politics of hope,
the politics of what's possible, because this
is America, where everything is possible." It's
probably no surprise that the charismatic and
telegenic Edwards will be doing 24 major fund-raisers
for the Democrats between now and election day,
as opposed to an even dozen by Kerry.
Kerry, to my surprise, delivered a fiery speech,
one every bit as good as the one Clinton delivered
on opening night. (One of the funniest vignettes
of the entire convention was the story of the
Faux News "reporter" on the convention floor immediately
following Clinton's speech, who could think of
nothing better to say than, "You have to admit:
he's good.") Kerry had been fighting an image
as a plodding and uninspiring speaker, an image
that was deserved, as opposed to one simply fabricated
by the well-paid liars and propagandists of the
GOP. I knew he was in trouble when his delivery
became a running gag on "The Daily Show" and the
Guardian's brilliant cartoonist, Steve Bell, started
portraying him as Lurch ("You rang?")
a party nominee is going to get an enthusiastic
response from his audience even if the polls show
him trailing in every state. The nominee could
stand at the podium and spend 45 minutes making
rude noises by pressing his palms against his
armpits and the delegates would cheer wildly.
you can feel when a speaker has captured the imagination
of his audience. It's subtle, and plays mostly
in the expressions of the people listening. At
this convention, a lot of speakers managed that.
Clinton managed it. Barack Obama did it too. So
did Teresa Heinz Kerry. So did Edwards.
so did Kerry. Starting with a deft "Reporting
for duty," that both tied in his war hero service
and reminded his audience that his opponent was
better known for passing on opportunities to say
those words, he proceeded to mix tough talk ("I
will never hesitate to use force when it is required.
Any attack will be met with a swift and certain
response."; "I defended this country as a young
man and I will defend it as president.") with
assurances that he wouldn't follow the mad course
of Putsch ("I will be a commander in chief who
will never mislead us into war ... We need to
be looked up to and not just feared ... Saying
there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war
on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming
mission accomplished certainly doesn't make it
mostly, his was a note of hope and optimism. Every
politician claims to be optimistic in these fretful
times of free-floating anxieties, but Kerry and
Edwards offered something that would sound very
strange coming from the Republicans: hope. For
all that Republicans babble about moving America
forward and making it stronger, their intended
beneficiaries make up only about ten percent of
the population, making such claims sound rather
Kerry's refrain, "Help is on the way," rang true
in a way that no such assurances from the party
of Ken Lay and Bill Frist could manage.
had fun glancing around at the right wing sites
on the web immediately following the convention.
Matt Drudge, that noted purveyor of journalistic
garbage, could find nothing better to headline
than the fact that a CNN mike caught the convention
director cussing a blue streak because the balloons
failed to begin falling on schedule. Believe it
or not, there are thousands of people who depend
on that clown for their news. Depressing, isn't
News was surprisingly non-committal about the
convention, reporting it with the usual digs (copious
mention of "Hollywood celebrities," and Edwards
identified as "a trial lawyer" rather than as
a Senator), but with a distinct note of trepidation.
Hacks covering the convention seemed to be focusing
on side issues: "What is Howard Dean's problem?"
was one; another was "Why won't the Democrats
tell us how they really feel?" which translated
from Faux language means, "Why didn't they say
something really stupid that I could castigate
them for?" A third wanted to know why the "liberal
elite media" wasn't joining in Faux's Sandy Berger
was the lack of "insta-polls" from the right wing.
The Pubs had been trumpeting that the Democrats
could expect a 15 point bounce from the convention
(in a race where less than 10% of voters are undecided),
while Democrats expected 6%. Since I didn't see
any headlines about how the Democratic convention
flopped, I assume preliminary polls showed more
than 6% bounce. On the first night, Matt Drudge
was trumpeting that the Democratic convention
was getting lower ratings than it got in 2000.
Such reports quietly vanished within a day, never
to be resurrected.
tactical mistake the GOP made was staying on the
offensive during the convention. Parties in the
past usually stated quiet during their opponent's
convention, not out of any sense of fair play,
but because they recognized the idiocy of starting
an exchange with an opponent when the opponent
has the nearly undivided attention of the media.
Democrats were able to respond to Republican attacks
and smears while the cameras were rolling - and
while voters were watching.
thing I found interesting was the way interest
in the convention picked up as each day passed.
On the second day, I heard people expressing regrets
they missed the Clinton speech, and expressing
curiosity about Obama and Teresa Heinz Kerry.
guessing that interest grew fairly quickly over
the first two days. I was amused to learn a libertarian
friend, one who normally shakes his head over
Democrats, wound up watching it closely. He may
still think that Democrats depend too much on
government to solve all our problems, but he KNOWS
that Republicans have worked hard to make government
the problem. He hates the Patriot Act, the war,
and the pious and censorious attitude of the fake
Christian right. He's going to vote for Kerry
it's all reversed. The Democrats are the party
of hope and patriotism, and the Republicans are
the fearmongering and fretful scowlers whose patriotism
and loyalty is open for question.
it doesn't look like Kerry and Edwards are about
to drop the political advantage that gives them.
Posted: July 30, 2004