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An Unconvenional Convention

There’s no definitive word yet on how many Americans were paying any attention to this week’s Republican National Convention, but to whatever extent people were watching the GOP probably helped itself with the proceedings.

Those Americans who have already made up their minds that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are evil incarnate simply won’t be convinced otherwise, but anyone still willing take an objective look at the candidate likely came away with a favorable impression. Several strong speeches by a diverse group of impressive speakers made a compelling case against the current administration, offered a reasonable argument for the opposition’s credentials and policies, got in a few good lines, and unless you’ve got one of those secret decoder rings that allows you to discern the nefarious racist intent of such terms as “Chicago” and “golf” they did so without resorting to ad hominen attacks or uncivil rhetoric.

The speeches by Romney and Ryan were especially good. Ryan’s address was a masterpiece, full of the cold, hard facts that had previously made him famous and the hot passion and soft friendliness that have emerged since his selection as the vice-presidential candidate. In addition to cataloguing the various failures of the Obama administration, outlining a free-market alternative, and issuing a stern and believable warning that “We don’t have much time,” the speech also shrewdly acknowledged the appealing squareness of Mitt Romney and demonstrated an appealing personality. There was also a nice line about the young people staring up at the fading Obama posters in the parental basements that a bad economy has forced them to live in, and the image has played so well that the Republicans are already building an advertising campaign around it.

The only objection to Ryan’s speech was that it was so very strong it threatened to overshadow the top of ticket’s acceptance speech, but Romney followed it with a very strong oration of his own. Critics are quibbling that the speech was short on specifics, but there’s no point to specificity about plans that are going to be run through too many committees and compromises to emerge in anything like their original form. What’s needed, rather, is a statement of the underlying principles and political and economic philosophies that will apply throughout the legislative process, and Romney made it clear that he will tack a far more capitalistic and libertarian course than the present administration.

More importantly, as far as winning over those persuadable voters who might have tuned it, Romney came off as a nice guy. The mere absence of horns and a pitchfork did much to rebut the Democrats’ caricature of him, but he also managed the difficult feat of making a strong case for himself without seeming egotistical. There were no Greek columns or talk of turning back the tides, and the contrast to his opposition was striking.

The contrast to the hateful response of various media commentators, political activists, and Democratic politicians was also stark. That response also suggests that the Republicans did pretty well, and it will be interesting to see if the Democrats can keep their temper through their convention.

— Bud Norman

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