A Virtual Convention

The Democratic National Convention started on Monday, but like the 2020 version of everything else it was far different than usual. There were no ballrooms filled to the brim with button-wearing delegates, no bands playing campaign theme songs, and no network cameras or press scribes filling their notebooks.
That’s because the coronavirus version of the convention is “virtual,” with the candidates and delegates and party officials spread all over the country but connected by the modern miracle of the internet. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same old show.
Otherwise, it was the same old show.Some very famous celebrity we’ve never heard introduced four speakers, all of whom spoke on behalf of presumptive nominee. The choice of speakers, though, was a bit unusual.
Up first was Vermont Sen. and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders, the darling of the Democratic party’s sizable bolshevik faction and the runner-up in the last two Democratic primary races. He spent the first part of his speech castigating Biden as a corporate sell-out for not endorsing Medicare for all and other far-left pipe dreams. This was a big favor to Biden, as it reassured swing voters that Biden’s not the looney left figure that Trump hopes to portray, and Sanders finished by imploring his followers to not let Trump win. He was followed by Michigans constantly upbeat and staunchly centrist Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who gave the impression of a fully unified Democratic party.
The next speaker was highly unusual because he’s a Republican, former Ohio Sen. and Governor John Kasich. Kasich has been one of the very, very few Republicans willing to criticize Trump, and eventually the criticisms mounted to a point that he’s endorsing the Democratic nominee. He can expect to be reviled by his erstwhile party, at least until he’s called upon to help revive it. The finale was by former First Lady Michelle Obama, whose famously heartfelt style came through as she described her personal relationship with Biden, but was able to strike a far harsher term when criticizing Trump.
All in all, a pretty good start for the Democrats. Assuming anyone was paying attention.

— Bud Norman

 

The Democratic Convention and Its Spoiler Alerts

The Democrats wrapped up their four-day and overlong mini-series of a National Convention on Thursday, and more out of a sense of civic duty than with any hopes of entertainment we did our best to follow it at last half-assedly. These quadrennial tawdry teleplays often have an effect on real life, at least to whatever extent there is any of that left these days, so we try to use our many years of experience on the political and theatrical beats to anticipate what harm might be done this time around.
From our theatrical critic perspective we have to give it an overall pan. The show started intriguingly enough, with the plucky heroine of the tale, former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President of the United States Hillary Clinton, was embarrassed by the release of a trove of hacked e-mails spilling all over the internet to show that her long-awaited triumph had long-ago been pre-written by the producers of this obvious work of fiction, and the die-hard fans of that wacky self-described socialist character, who had been rooting for him under the delusion that it was actually real life, were in such full revolt they were wearing the same “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts and chanting the same “Lock her up chant” that all the highbrow critics were tsk-tsking about the right crazies wearing and chanting during last week’s Republican mini-series. This seemed a delightful plot twist, but by the next night the script had reverted to predictable formula with that wacky self-described socialist swearing fidelity to heroine he had so persuasively described as a villainess from the evil empire of Wall Street and “the establishment” that those e-mails had proved were running the show all along, and after that one speaker after another seemed the same guy from those “sham-wow” informercials.
The production values were pretty good, though, and we have to admit there was more star power than during last week’s Republican mini-series. One of the few pop cultural names we recognized from the GOP snooze-fest was Scott Baio, who starred as “Chachi” on the long-ago “Happy Days” television show and had a recurring cameo role in a friend of ours’ hilarious tale of a long-ago LSD trip, and one night featured a not-ready-for-prime-time lineup of a Florida State Attorney General who dropped a suit against Trump University shortly after Republican nominee Donald J. Trump made a generous contribution to her campaign, a woman who runs a dubious multi-level vitamin-marketing scheme similar to Trump’s eponymous Trump Network, and Phil Ruffin, who ran a failed dog track and some dingy convenience stores and various real estate schemes here in Wichita before making it into the self-described billionaire ranks in the Las Vegas casino business and is pretty much our local version of Trump, who was best man at Ruffin’s most recent wedding. The Democrats had comedienne and actress Sarah Silverman, who is a typical Hollywood airhead when it comes to politics but nonetheless occasionally makes us laugh and has a certain sultry semitic appeal we cannot deny, and Eva Longoria, who is apparently quite famous for something or another and is so objectively beautiful that even the discerning beauty-pagent-running eye of Trump would have to acknowledge she is more of a “ten” than even the comely yet crazy radio hostess Laura Ingraham, and various other names that the young folks would be likely to recognize.
Political celebrity seems to count for less these days, and once upon a not-so-long-ago time such former Republicans as ourselves would have have been entitled to tsk-tsk about that, but the Democratic convention featured a president and a vice president and a past president and every current office-holder they thought might do any good, whereas two former presidents and two past nominees and several other names that were conspicuous by their absence declined roles in the GOP show, so the Democrats once again had the advantage in “star power.” Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing in a year when anti-establishmentarianism seems a popular theme remains to be seen, but if you’re going by that formerly comforting formulaic script about party unity and all that the Democrats seem to have had the upper hand. Even the best and best-looking and most famous actors are only as good as their script, however, and this year’s show offered the little to work with.
They were clearly at their best when mocking the Republican nominee, a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt self-described billionaire real-estate-and-failed-casino-and-gambling-joint-and-scam-university-and-multi-level-vitamin-marketing-scheme-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul with a ridiculous haircut whom even such retrograde right-wingers as ourselves and The National Review and The Weekly Standard and those conspicuously absent Republicans and the rest of the old-fashioned “integrity” types can’t help mocking. The current Democratic vice presidential nominee noticed the same annoying tendency by the current Republican presidential nominee to follow every unbelievable claim by stating “Believe me,” but he’s no Rich Little and his awkward impersonation got Trump’s fingernails-on-a-chalkboard cadence of the phrase all wrong. After more than eight years of railing against that awful current President of the United States we’ll at long last gratefully acknowledge that his screed against Trump was prefaced by the generous admission that “What we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t Republican and it sure wasn’t conservative.”
The attempts to speak on behalf of the Democratic nominee all fell flat, however, as there’s really nothing to be said for her by either right wingers such as ourselves or even the most earnest and honest sorts of Democrats who spent the week trying to let to go of that crazy self-described socialist. After all, the heroine of the storyline spent her First Ladyship fending off the victims of that past president’s sexual depredations, has nothing to show for her brief tenure as a Senator other than a losing presidential race against an even more briefly-tenured and less-distinguished Senator, and her runner-up prize of being Secretary of State yielded one disaster after another. She’s as mean and vindictive and dishonest and corrupt and morally contemptible as that other guy, and not nearly as entertaining, and by the time she took the stage for the anti-climatic grand finale even most diligent critic would be tempted to walk out on this in-flight movie.
As we don our political reporter’s felt fedora to behold this tale, the perspective doesn’t improve much. Last week’s dreadful GOP convention nudged Trump into a slight lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, this week’s Democratic convention has thus far nudged it down slightly, and our guess is that next week’s averages will probably reflect that both these shows are much hated by a majority of the country and that it’s a virtual tie as to which is hated more.

— Bud Norman

A Decent Day for the Democrats and a Good Day for the Rest of Us to Deal With Other Pressing Problems

Some annoying automotive and home repair chores and a much-needed dollar-night home game by our Wichita Wingnuts over at the local ballpark kept us preoccupied through most of Tuesday, so we were mostly spared the more irksome task of watching the Democratic National Convention. A quick mid-afternoon look around the internet turned up a Washington Post headline gloating that there was less booing of the soon-to-be nominee than on Monday, although that glum admission seems to have since disappeared from their internet site, and apres ballgame we checked once again to  find that the Democrats had gone right on ahead and made Hillary Clinton their nominee, after a slew of mostly un-booed speeches by former president and presumptive First “Gentleman” Bill Clinton and some other tawdry celebrities, and judging by the general gist of the coverage that awful Clinton woman had a far better day than our more deserving selves.
Monday’s un-ignorable outbreak of booing came mostly from the supporters of self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had waged a pesky but runner-up insurrection against the party establishment’s long preferred candidate, but on Tuesday he took to the stage to confess abject defeat to the party’s hated Wall Street establishment and utter terror of the Republican nominee and urge that all rules once again be suspended on behalf of Clinton to allow her a unanimous nomination vote. At last week’s desultory Republican National Convention the pesky anti-establishment insurrectionist had congratulated the newly established winner on his victory but declined to offer an explicit endorsement and instead urged party members to “vote your conscience,” which gives us hope that there’s still some shred of integrity clinging to the Republican Party’s soul but will surely be spun by most of the media that the Democrats are by now the more united of the two parties. The usual diverse selection of reviews we perused about the rest of it were mixed, to say the least, but all in all Clinton and the Democrats seem to have at long last held their own through a news cycle.
Even the most Never Trump yet Never Clinton and by now reluctantly None of the Above press organs such are ourselves that are left of what used to be called “conservatism” had to scoff at the sight of an old and gaunt and frail Bill Clinton trying to “humanize” his harridan of a wife with nostalgic recollections of their storybook romance and lasting marriage, as if anyone who around at the time won’t recall what a farce the younger and chubbier and more randy President of that long-ago and longed-for era of the Roaring ’90s made of it, and even the more polite “mainstream” outlets wound up acknowledging the need to “humanize” a woman who’s been in the public eye for what seems the past couple of centuries or so. Our lefty friends on Facebook seemed to love it, though, especially those endearingly innocent younger ones whose first inklings of fellatio and cigar tricks and other late night comic fare slightly predated the Roaring ’90s, and even the more seasoned members of the sisterhood who used to talk about inordinate power relationships and other outrages when Republicans did far less were still willing to give him an admittedly less enthusiastic thumbs up. An ideologically consistent feminist Sanders supporters would have decried the obvious hypocrisy of it all, but Sanders himself was calling for the suspension of the rules on her Clinton’s behalf, and the elder sisterhood and the third or fourth or five wave of whatever it is of the most up-to-date feminism was on board, and by now the suicidally committed sort of None of the Above ideological integrity seems to reside only with what’s left of what used to be called “conservatism.”
In our admittedly half-assed perusal of the rest of it, we noticed in a report from former our one-time freelance employer “People Magazine” that one of the acts was the television actress and writer Lena Dunham, best known as that naked chubby chick from HBO’s critically-acclaimed and little-watched “Girls” show, and a more comely young Latina with the unlikely name of America Ferrara, who is apparently famous for something or another, riffing on the Republican nominee’s sexism and racism. The chubby white chick groused that Trump would consider her a “2,” and the comely young Latina said that Trump would probably consider her a rapist because she’s of Mexican descent, although she’s actually apparently of Honduran descent, the joke being that Trump wouldn’t note any difference between a Honduran and a Mexican. We so wish we could object to this quadrennial disparagement of the sexism and racism of the Republican nominee, but Trump actually does have an annoying habit of going on shock jock radio shows and rating women on scales of one to 10 and we can’t help recalling someone we know who said he was going to vote for Trump in a primary because his only other options were a couple of Mexicans, and how when we pointed out that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio were actually of Cuban descent he snarled “What’s the difference?” In a typical election year we’d gleefully ridicule the Democrats’ alliance with such celebrity nitwits as Dunham and Ferrara and that awful Michelle Obama woman who was much more all the rage among our liberal Facebook friends a day earlier, and we’ll gladly do so even this year, even if the Republican nominee himself didn’t dare take on the current First Lady in his “twitter” tirades, but this year we are compelled to admit the Republican convention did feature Scott “Chachi” Baio.
From our suddenly objective perspective we’d say the Democrats on Tuesday regained any ground lost on Monday, and might yet pick up a crucial couple of fractions of a percentage point if the nominee can somehow come across seemingly human on Thursday’s acceptance speech. The Democratic National Convention so far is the kind of thing you’ll like if you like that kind of thing, as per the old drama critic joke, and the necessary corollary of that same of joke is that it’s kind of thing you’ll hate if you hate that kind of thing. So far we hate everything on every channel, even to the point we feel a certain angry gratitude for the irksome distractions of automotive and home repairs.
At least the Wichita Wignuts’ four-run second inning was enough for a 4-2 victory over the Lincoln Saltdogs, extending their lead in the American Association’s Southern Division, and they even struck out the designated “beer batter” in the sixth to win the crowd a promotional $3.50 price on a sizable and delicious Shiner Bock beer. At this point there’s no telling who will prevail in this crazy presidential race, but no matter how it comes out, such small favors will sure come in handy.

— Bud Norman

A Rocky Start to a Democratic Convention

The Democratic Party will convene its quadrennial National Convention in Philadelphia today, and they’ll have their work cut out for them to top the freak show the Republicans put on last week in Cleveland. Being Democrats, though, they might well pull off the feat.
Things got off to a prematurely bad start over the weekend, when the internet-hacking and bean-spilling Wikileaks outfit released a trove of e-mails showing that the Democratic National Committee had long been putting its heavy thumb on the scales to help former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton survive an unexpectedly pesky challenge from self-described socialist and formerly independent Vermont. Sen. Bernie Sanders. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying the least bit of attention to the Democrats’ debacle of a primary campaign, but the leaked e-mails included juicy new details that the party even planned attacks on Sanders’ religious beliefs, reheated the anger of Sanders’ sizable number of supporters, fed quite nicely into the Republican nominee’s loudly shouted storyline that all of our systems of economics and governance are rigged, and all in all it was such an undeniable disaster that the Democrats were forced to fire their national chairwoman.
Given the Democrats’ instinctive reluctance to ever fire anybody, that’s saying something. There’s likely to be more that’s said, though, as the various sub-plots to this particular tawdry affair will be hard for even the most polite media to ignore over the next four days of the convention. The very fact of the DNC’s computers being hacked can’t help remind any voters still mulling their awful choices that the presumptive Democratic nominee ran an e-mail operation as Secretary of State that the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation described as “extremely carless” even as he was declining to recommend she be prosecuted for it, and with a majority of the country disagreeing with that non-indictment another leak certainly can’t help a candidate who wasn’t much of a First Lady or Senator or Secretary of State and is such an awful presumptive Democratic presidential nominee that she needed help to fend off a challenge from a previously little-known self-described socialist from Vermont.
Harder to judge is how that juicy revelation that the DNC had contemplated on attack on Sanders’ religious beliefs might play out. They didn’t plan on attacking Sanders for being an ethnic Jew, and we doubt that the ethnically Jewish and occasionally synagogue-going DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ever contemplated that, even though that might have played well with the sizable Israel-hating portion of the Democratic base, but rather for the fact that he’s not religiously Jewish and proudly proclaims that he has no religious faith at all. How this would have played with a party that loudly booed God at it’s last quadrennial get-together,and has long thrived on he argument that the Republicans are a bunch of snake-handling Bible-thumpers intent on imposing a “Handmaiden’s Tale” theocracy on it’s sizable unmarried women demographic, is so complicated that we doubt even the DNC had any idea how it would play out. This year they’re running against a thrice-married casino-and-strip-joint and reality show mogul who not only doesn’t thump the Bible but embarrassingly refers to its book of “Two Corinthians,” and even if he does claim that the Internal Revenue Service keeps auditing his still-unreleased tax filings because he’s such a “strong Christian” we think a shrewder DNC establishment would have surely tried rigging the system without any mention at all of religion.
The reheated anger of those Sanders supporters will surely pose a problem to every political convention’s main goal of presenting a semblance of unified party, but we expect that will be cooled somewhat when Sanders himself eventually takes the stage to full-throatedly endorse the woman he had so long and so rightly castigated as a corrupt candidate who helped to herself to millions of dollars of largesse from the billionaires who have rigged the system. At the Republican convention the runner-up declined to explicitly endorse the nominee, who had mocked the runner-up’s wife’s looks and implicitly accused his father of being in on the Kennedy assassination, and had instead advised Republicans to “vote your conscience,” which was reasonably understood as an attack on the nominee, so by the end of the week those liberal media the Republican nominee rails against should be able to to present a semblance of a unified party.
There’s a good Democratic plot line in the fact that Wikileaks has apparently often received its information from Russian intelligence sources, and that the Republican nominee and his associates seem to have an uncomfortable business and ideological and temperamental relationship with the totalitarian Russkies, but the presumptive Democratic nominee has already done much to negate that other significant advantage. She was the one who offered that ridiculous “reset button” to the Russians, and the at-this-point conspiracy theory that the Russians were behind only reminds once again of the consequences of her and her party’s “extremely careless” method of handing internet communications. If the conspiracy theories are correct, more embarrassing revelations will be forthcoming, but if all the equally plausible Republican conspiracy theories about the Internal Revenue Service are true we can also expect some embarrassing revelations from the past many years of tax filings that the Republican nominee refuses to disclose.
The Democrats should be able to come up with some more impressive celebrities than Scott Baio and the rest of the questionable character witnesses the Republican came up, but they’ll also have to come up with a new script for the rest of it. All the usual panic about the looming theocracy is out the window, given the Republican’s fond embrace of the “LGBTQ” community and the throwing under the bus of those pesky Bible-thumpers who’d prefer not to bake their wedding cakes or not have some guy hanging around their daughter’s shower rooms, and despite the Republican’s undeniably sexist comments on the Howard Stern Show and other outlet’s he’s made an opening bid for the women’s vote with taxpayer-paid child care, and he’s even gone beyond that self-described socialist in his anti-free trade rhetoric.
Despite their connections to the higher echelons of Hollywood the Democrats aren’t very good at coming up with new scripts, but of course even the highest echelons of Hollywood seem hard pressed to come up with anything old scripts with new genders these days. As lifelong Republicans up until the Indiana primary we’re not inclined to offer the Democrats any advice, and being as flummoxed as anybody by the current Republican nominee we’re in no position offer any ideas in case, but our best guess is that they should try be to normal. As awful as she is the presumptive Democratic nominee hasn’t lately spouted off about paying America’s creditors less than they have been promised, or making our treaty obligations contingent on the president’s notions of who’s been paying their fair share, or indulging in the craziest-yet Kennedy assassination conspiracies or threatening trade wars, and given that we can’t think of anything else to say for that awful woman we think she’d do best to go with that.
That won’t be easy, though, Democrats being Democrats.

— Bud Norman