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Sincerity is key – once you can fake that, the rest is cake…

By Brian | August 26, 2008 | Share on Facebook

My opinion of the Democratic National Convention has been severely stymied by the fact that I fell asleep last night just before Michelle Obama began speaking.

I blame Michael Phelps and Bela Karyoli.  If the Olympics didn’t keep me up well past midnight every night for the last two weeks, I’d have more stamina to watch the Democrats in Denver.  I wonder, in fact, if the convention’s ratings will suffer because of this Olympics-induced “virtual jet lag.”  But that’s another blog post.

This blog post is about the grand cacophany of noise I’ve been reading about the Democrats’ need to show a “united party” at the convention.  When Hillary delivers the keynote speech tonight, all eyes will apparently be watching her level of enthusiasm.  She needs to convince us (and by “us,” I mean the professional punditry covering the event – I read somewhere that there are 5,000 delegates and 14,000 members of the media in attendance) that she really wants her supporters to support Obama, as opposed to just saying so because it’s the “party line.”  Perpetual Clinton cheerleader and former campaign chair, Terry McAuliffe, summarizes it well:

She’s going to thank her supporters and then, most importantly, she is going to tell her supporters we all have to come together to support Barack Obama.  She is going to fire ‘em up and she is going to draw some distinctions too, and she is going to talk about what John McCain will mean for this country and how we can’t allow him to be president.  She knows what she has to do tonight.  She is going to do it.

So, basically, to use language my 5-year old understands, “Yeah, Barack!  Boo, McCain!”  If she performs sufficiently, then Bill Clinton will presumably pass through the same gauntlet tomorrow night when he gives his address.

As it stands right now, only 66% of former (Hillary) Clinton supporters are backing Obama, down from 75% in June.  27% of those people are now saying they’ll vote for McCain, up from 16% in June (source).  Not quite the “convention bounce” Obama was hoping for…

Here’s the thing:  I think the easiest way to make the party appear united is to have the party actually be united.  It’s as if no one has even considered the possibility that these “defectors” are choosing McCain based on his positions vis-a-vis Obama’s, as opposed to voting for McCain in protest of Hillary losing the Democratic primary. 

If this weren’t the case, then Hillary’s goal tonight wouldn’t be enthusiasm and McCain bashing, but rather a discussion of the issues that were core to her campaign (healthcare, foreign policy, etc.) and why she believes that Barack Obama is stronger in those areas than John McCain.  If her supporters were supporting her because of these issues, then her best bet would be to convince them to back Obama because of these issues

This bothers me for two reasons.  First, it’s style over substance – what Doris Kearns Goodwin calls our “People Magazine” culture, where personalities rule over issues and ideas.  Second, it’s evidence of that thing that’s always bugged me about Hillary Clinton (and, to a lesser extent, her husband) – this feeling that she needs to talk down to the public.  To assume the least common denominator approach, rather than appealing to some sense of what’s really important and bringing the rest of us along in that direction (also known as “leadership”).

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying what Gary Trudeau can say in four panels:


(as Wil Wheaton would say, click to embiggen)

Topics: Political Rantings | No Comments »

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