Some thoughts on last night's speeches at the DNC in Boston.
I did not get to see Barack Obama give his speech. I turned on PBS (shock! a conservative who watches PBS!) right afterwards, when he was being interviewed. He seemed to be a very polite, well-spoken man, self-effacing and sincere. A good first impression. And I read the text of his speech online. A well-crafted speech. There were things I disagreed with, of course, but there were also things I connected to. But there was one disconnect I kept running into.
Here's the section in question:
Now, this sounds great. I like it. But it doesn't jive with the stance of the party. John Edwards' entire presidential campaign is based on the idea of two Americas, not one. Even now, he's riding the back of this idea that there is a huge gap in this country between the rich and the poor, between whites and non-whites, between the oppressors and the oppressed.
Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America — there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
I'm not going to get into the argument of whether this is true or not (yet, anyway), but I just find it interesting that Obama said the complete opposite, and the crowd ate it up. Obama's message is the real message of hope. That there is not an insurmountable gap. That you can achieve and succeed, with hard work and limited outside help.
There's a disconnect there.
SPEECH 2: Ron Reagan. Ron, Ron, Ron... Ron talked about embrionic stem cell research, and while the speech sounded rather persuasive, there were two big problems. First, he didn't distinguish between no research and limited research. And there is a substantial difference. He implied throughout that stem cell research is being completely stonewalled by the Bush administration, and this is simply not true. Argue all you want, "not good enough" is not the same thing as "not at all." Secondly, he argued for stem cell research with such urgency that you want to believe that all of these terrible diseases can be cured during the next presidential term. But the fact is, it may not be for another generation or two of intensive research. I'm not using this as an argument against, mind you, I'm just questioning the delivery of the message.
One phrase of his jumped out at me. He said, "it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many." For some reason, this bothers me. We hear this rhetoric about the "tyranny of the majority" and how the "rights of the minority are protected" in this country. And clearly the rights of anti-ESCR aren't necessarily being crushed or even threatened...at this point. However, this line of rhetoric can be a very dangerous one. Fill in the blank: the theology of the few should not be allowed to dictate/interfere with the ______ of the many. Lifestyle? Ambitions? Wants? I don't know. But marginalizing religious conviction as a quaint practice of the few is a rather uncomfortable thought for me. Maybe I'm wrong.
Ron finished the speech by implying that a vote for Kerry (an ESCR supporter) was a vote for "the future", "reason", and "true compassion", as opposed to "the past", "ignorance", and "mere ideology."
That says it all, I think. If you have a religious conviction against it, it's based on ignorance and ideology, a relic of the past. Is this where the Democratic party stands? Tell me, you who claim it, I want to know.
The last speech of the evening was from Theresa Heinz Kerry. I won't go into the typical mockery of her, because she appears to be a sincere woman. I thought her use of all five languages was really a bit hammy, but that's to be expected. But what jumped out at me about her speech was that it all sounded a whole lot more substantial than it was. She touched on every major issue of her party: women's rights, the environment, the economy, America's reputation in the world, America's dependence on foreign energy.
And it all sounded good. But there was no substance. She said, "With John Kerry as President, we can, and we will, protect our nation's security without sacrificing our civil liberties." Sounds great; I'm on board. How are we going to do that?
"John believes that we can, and we will, give every family and every child access to affordable health care, a good education, and the tools to become self-reliant." Awesome. How?
"Isn't it time we began working to give parents more opportunity to be with their children and to afford to have a family life?" Absolutely. How do we make that happen?
Now, I know, I know, she's not the candidate. And I didn't really expect her to be throwing out policy. But I think this is the biggest problem for the Kerry campaign as a whole, at this point. All great rhetoric, sounds really awesome, emotionally appealing--no meat. Cotton candy politics.
I'm likely wrong on this, but can any of you intelligent readers give me some concrete, consistent "nuts and bolts" of how Kerry is going to accomplish these things? Because I haven't heard it. And unless he figures out a concrete plan to sell the American people, he's going to lose. That simple.
I heard Michael Moore say yesterday, "Most people would rather vote for their right sock than George W. Bush." If that's so, then Kerry should be fine. Because he's provided a right-sock's worth of concrete election platform to stand on.
Well, I promised myself I wouldn't be snarky. Almost made it. Instead of dipping into Ann Coulter land, I'll end with this: I'm convinced that because of their utter hatred for the President, the Democratic party and its supporters are suffering from some heavy-duty hysterical blindness. That's the only way to explain that, despite their talk about the evils of the super-rich and their talk about how much they hate war (esp. Vietnam), they are going to nominate two multi-millionaires who are class-warriors at the same time, one of whom is a "war hero" responsible for killing Vietnamese people in that "evil war." How quickly Vietnam vets have been transformed in the Democratic mind from "warmongers" to "war heroes."
Something's just not fitting. Please explain it to me.