— Bud Norman
Four years ago or so the Democrats’ national convention was the hot show on television, and Barack Obama was so ubiquitous that we sought refuge from his constant presence by sneaking to a certain small tavern we have been known to frequent. Even there we found no escape, however, as a rather belligerent regular not only insisted that the bar’s fuzzy old television be tuned to the nominee’s acceptance speech but that everyone cease their conversations and listen with proper reverence.
We did not oblige him, of course, and continued to exercise our God-given right to talk baseball with one of the more apolitical patrons, but at full volume the great orator’s oration proved unavoidable. No lines from the speech come to mind, although there was probably something in there about hope and change and the failed policies of George W. Bush, but we well remember the alarming degree of excitement that the event seemed to generate. It was a big football stadium filled to capacity with screaming fans, with great columns looming on a stage created by Madonna’s own set designer, thousands of those kitschy Shepard Fairey “Hope” posters with Obama’s beatific face looking sagely upward to a bright shiny waving in the stands, and millions of people around the country chanting the candidate’s name in unison. It was quite a sight, and most unsettling.
Four years now seems a long time ago. We once again sought refuge from the big acceptance speech, this time at a slightly swanker establishment that serves a good chicken-fried steak, but this time all three of the fancy-schmantzy flat screen high-definition televisions were tuned to sports and absolutely no one in the place raised an objection. The convention seems a less popular show this time around, with the overnight ratings from Wednesday showing that the most popular broadcast of Bill Clinton’s much-hyped speech was routed by the National Football League’s season opener and tied with something called “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which The Hollywood Reporter describes as a “zeitgeisting reality show.” Obama’s speech was indoors on a rather plain stage, too, the big football stadium show having been cancelled because of either a slight chance of rain or fear that they wouldn’t be able to fill enough seats for convincing show of support.
What we perused of the speech made no mention of hope or change, although there were several oblique references to the failed policies of George W. Bush, and none of it seemed particularly memorable. There were reports on the radio that the speech would include a major announcement regarding entitlement reform, but except for the part where he claimed the president claimed that Obamacare was going to lower medical costs and thus save Medicare and Medicaid from impending extinction we couldn’t find anything of the sort. None of those Shepard Fairey “Hope” posters were on display, perhaps because the artist is currently facing jail time for illegally covering up evidence that it was all a fraud. The crowd of die-hard fans in the convention hall went predictably wild, as did many of the television and radio commentators, but the chants of the candidate’s name seemed fainter.
Perhaps we perceive a relative lack of enthusiasm for Obama because we live in Kansas, where he wasn’t very popular even back during the Obama-mania days of ’08, but we often run into what’s left of the left around here and they seem unusually eager to talk about baseball. When the conversation does get around to politics, as it always will with these people, they’re invariably more excited to discuss Mitt Romney’s tax returns, personal banking practices, or secret plan to enslave women and black people than they are to enthuse about their own candidate.
The ratings were down for the Republican convention, too, and we must concede that the Republicans of our acquaintances are more prone to talk about Obama’s failings than Romney’s alternatives, but this general disdain for politics is further evidence that hope and change and all that jazz are no longer the “zeitgeisting” reality show that they once were. Throughout most of their convention the Democrats seemed most energized when comparing their opponents to Nazis or describing the nightmare dystopia those evil Republicans are diabolically plotting, and we expect to hear a lot more of it between and November.
— Bud Norman
Even with professional football beckoning on another television channel, it’s hard to turn one’s attention away from the Democrats’ national convention. For bruising hits, strange behavior, and bizarre spectacle, even the National Football League can’t compete with the Democrats.
The highlight, thus far, was when a significant number of the assembled delegates booed God. This unprecedented moment in American politics occurred because earlier in the convention party officials had deleted a reference to “God-given rights” from the platform, leaving the document without any mention of the deity. Party poobahs were clearly rattled by the negative reaction from the more pious portions of the population, with Sen. Dick Durbin reacting to an interviewer’s seemingly innocent question about the matter as if the Spanish Inquisition were interrogating him, and they quickly asked the convention delegates to approve an amendment restoring God’s place in the party platform. After three tries God was ruled to have won a voice vote, although the “nays” certainly sounded louder each time and there was much booing, hissing and jeering throughout.
The Democrats can now insist that they officially have nothing against God, although if pressed they’d have to say that He is no Barack Obama, and a couple of subsequent speakers even made a point of mentioning God in what they probably considered a favorable light. Black Congressional Caucus leader Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver delivered a rousing sermon on the goodness, mercy, and bountiful blessings of big government, exhorting the president to “continue to hope,” then adding very specifically that “As long as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sits on the throne of grace, hope on!” A short time earlier the delegates had also contentiously approved a platform amendment restoring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and we assume that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would have approved. Elizabeth Warren, the fake Indian affirmative action scammer and Massachusetts Senate candidate whose self-righteous anger stands out even at a Democratic convention, mentioned her past service as a Sunday school teacher and even recited some New Testament verses proving God is a socialist who hates Republicans, corporations, and religious people as much as she does.
The delegates were also treated to a speech by Sandra Fluke, the 30-year-old Georgetown law school student who demanded that her Catholic university provide her with birth control and became famous when a prominent radio host called her a “slut,” and so far as we can tell there was no mention of God. Fluke’s speech was part of the convention’s emphasis on issues of importance to women. Judging by the Democratic convention one might conclude that women are mostly interested in abortion, birth control, and sexual freedom, but in our unfortunate experience they seem far more interested in their jobs.
In keeping with the theme of how much Democrats love women, the convention followed up its tribute to Ted Kennedy with a much ballyhooed speech by serial sexual harasser and alleged rapist Bill Clinton. The man who gave America the subprime mortgage was called on because of the public’s lingering memories of the good times before the crash, and he spoke about how tough Obama’s had it and how hard he’s tried, but mostly it sounded very much like those trombone sounds that the adults used to make on the “Peanuts” television specials, and by that point the game was getting good.
— Bud Norman
Almost everyone we know is quite happy not to talk about abortion. The weather, the fortunes of the local sports team, the scandalous behavior of a neighbor, something amusing from the previous night’s television programs, even the medical complaints of older people, all are vastly more popular conversational fodder than abortion. The only possible explanation for the Democratic party’s sudden enthusiasm for the topic, then, is that they’d rather not talk about the economy.
A slew of bad economic news was vying for newspaper space and air time Tuesday as the Democrats opened their quadrennial convention, and even the cheerleaders in the national media were admitting that it cast a pall over the festivities. As the first speakers started up the orating the national debt passed the eye-popping $16 trillion mark, and despite the $5.4 trillion of borrowing during the Obama administration all the data suggest that the economy is slowing from its previously sluggish pace. Manufacturing has declined for three straights and most recently at the fastest pace in more than three years, construction spending has dropped, jobless claims are rising, what jobs are being created are mostly low-paying and unpleasant, median household income has declined by 7.3 percent, gas prices are rising, food stamp use is at an all-time high, and the best grade that Obama can give himself on economics is “incomplete.” All of this has caused consumer confidence to plummet, and because most voters are consumers the president’s poll numbers have also been on the decline.
Which is why the Democrats would prefer to talk about how the Republicans are plotting to keep women barefoot, pregnant, and chained to a stove. The Republicans don’t actually plan to do that, or at least they’re not campaigning on that plan, possibly because they sense the economy is a better issue, but the Democrats need something to talk about over three days. There’s also the issue of Mitt Romney’s taxes, although it’s hard to make the case for the president who appointed Timothy Geithner to head the Treasury Department on the basis that his opponent merely paid what was legally required, The convention has already featured lots of talk about higher taxes on the rich in general, a pet obsession of the Democrats’, but thus far they have offered no explanation of how that’s going to improve the economy.
In their zeal for abortion, same-sex marriage, and the more permissive positions on other social issues the Democrats could move farther along the secular path than the country at large is willing to go. The platform committee has proudly omitted a reference to “God-given rights” from the party’s statement of principles, possibly because the notion of a God is just too gauche, possibly because the notion of rights that don’t involve sexual intercourse is problematic, but running as the godless Democrats isn’t likely to win over many swing voters. God still has a lot of fans in this country, probably even more than Obama still has, and almost everybody enjoys the rights He granted.
— Bud Norman
The Democrats begin their convention today, and it should make for an interesting show.
Viewership will likely be down from the last time around, and to at least the same precipitous extent as in the recent Republican convention. The poor ratings are a result of counter-programming by the other four hundred or so networks, a general lack of interest in politics, and the drama-free nature of the modern convention, so it might even be worse for the Democrats. Professional football’s season opener will be televised at the same time Bill Clinton delivers his much ballyhooed keynote address, and by now Americans have heard so many speeches by Barack Obama that all but his most obstinate supporters will be content to skip another one.
Still, it should be worth watching to see what the Democrats might do. The party has some tricky business to get done at the convention, and will have to resist its usual impulses to pull it off.
They have to talk about the economy, lest it seem they don’t care about what voters regard as the most important issue of the election, but they can’t claim that happy days are here again without annoying the many millions who are out of work or under-employed or the millions more who have seen their incomes and wealth fall despite the blessing of a job. We expect to hear a lot about how very much worse things would have been if they hadn’t racked up $5 trillion in and debt and lavished the money on public sector unions, phony baloney “green jobs” scams, and grandiose public works projects that turned out to not be shovel-ready, so it should make for an entertaining spectacle.
They also have to rev up the base, which has been disappointed by the administration’s failure to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet and otherwise deliver the promised utopia, but they have to do so without alienating the non-ideological voters who are still up for grabs. That means touting the administration’s work on behalf of radical environmentalists without taking credit for the resulting high energy costs, promising abortions, contraceptives, and hot towels for everyone without seeming the libertine party or offending members of the various ancient religious institutions that they’re bullying in the process, and promising spoils to various ethnic minorities without seeming hostile to white folks. Given the party’s genuine enthusiasm for these causes, and its deeply felt disdain for anyone who gets in the way, we expect they’ll have limited success in the effort.
The surest way to rev up the base is to bash the Republicans, of course, but the Democrats will need to do so without seeming mean-spirited and angry. This will be the trickiest business of all, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they simply abandon the effort early on in the proceedings.
— Bud Norman
The nation’s political discourse has been blissfully free of talk about abortion in recent years, one of the few benefits accrued from an avalanche of bad economic news, but the Democratic party seems eager to revive all the old arguments.
Emboldened by the widely publicized flap over Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s universally scorned misstatements about rape and abortion, and ever eager to talk about anything other than all that bad economic news, the Democrats are planning to turn their upcoming convention into a week-long abortion rights rally. The speakers chosen for the event are an all-star roster of abortion rights advocates, and the party’s web site is excitedly proclaiming that “Romney, Ryan, Akin and the GOP want to take women back to the dark ages,” which is apparently a reference to that medieval era of American history prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Among those taking the podium are Nancy Keenan, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League’s Pro-Choice America group, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Sandra Fluke, the celebrity law student who demanded that her Catholic university supply her contraceptives and became a feminist martyr of sorts when a radio host called her a “slut.” The lineup also includes Caroline Kennedy, one of the stars of the long-running Kennedy family reality show, the actress Eva Longoria, who is said to be very hot, and Barbara Mikulski, who is merely a senator from Maryland. All can be expected to wax indignant about the Republicans’ devious schemes to subjugate women in a “Handmaid’s Tale” dystopia just like 1972.
It should be a riveting spectacle for the handful of viewers who will be watching on cable, but we suspect that any women susceptible to this line of argument have probably already decided to vote for Obama. With abortion rights set in constitutional stone for the foreseeable future, and more pressing matters looming in the meantime, most are likely to cast their votes based on other issues. To the extent that the Republicans also seem more concerned with those other issues, they should benefit.
Nor should the Democrats be certain that they enjoy majority support on the social issues. Even many of the Americans who call themselves “pro-life” will sadly allow exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, but even many of those who call themselves “pro-choice” are opposed to late term abortions or abortions without parental consent, are in favor of allowing medical professionals and religious institutions to act according their own consciences, and don’t share the same unabashed enthusiasm for the procedure as the average Democratic convention speaker, so both parties have staked out positions that potentially alienate much of the country.
— Bud Norman
Bill Clinton is back in the news, where he always seems happiest, and this time it’s because he’s been invited to play a “leading role” in the upcoming Democratic convention.
The leading role at party’s convention is traditionally played by the party’s nominee, but the Democrats apparently felt they needed somebody with more box office appeal. Given the problems that have already plagued the show, which has been shortened to a three day run, seen the cancellation of an event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway due to fund-raising problems, angered union bosses because of its location in a right-to-work state, and annoyed the party’s sizeable anti-capitalist wing with an event scheduled to be held in the embarrassingly named Bank of America Stadium, it is not surprising that the producers felt the need to call in a guest star. Many Democratic office-holders have already announced that they’ll be skipping the convention, and the party’s leader in the House of Representatives has urged the rest of them to do so as well, so the organizers were no doubt delighted to find a still-popular Democrat who isn’t running for anything.
Why Clinton remains popular is something of a mystery. His many fans recall the Clinton era as a time of peace and prosperity, but the peace was a result of the successful conclusion of a Cold War he had declined to help fight, the prosperity was largely brought about by his predecessors and the Republican congress that his first two years had created, and during his time in office he did much to undermine both. By neglecting the provocations of the World Trade Center bombing attempt, the bombing of American embassies in Africa, and numerous other terror attacks, he left the country vulnerable to the terror attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. He also started the insane subprime lending practices that created a housing boom during his administration but later led directly to the financial crisis that is still crippling the American economy, and those of a liberal bent who prefer to blame the present mess on the repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act should recall that it happened during the Clinton years. None of it hit the fan while Clinton was in office, a testimony to his undeniably good timing, but as the great economist Frédéric Bastiat once wrote, “it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa.”
There were also the tawdry sexual shenanigans, of course, which tarnished the American image in all the but most fashionably enlightened corners of the world. After all these years the Egyptian rabble are still using Clinton’s escapades to taunt his wife as she attempts to serve as Secretary of State.
— Bud Norman