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Election Wasteland Part I: The Democratic National Convention

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National Conventions Drop Like Nukes: Examining the Fallout and Election Wasteland, Part I

The election landscape has suffered a dramatic change after the Republican National Convention, as I was able to predict when Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain’s running mate. The Palin strategy has worked, so far, without a single setback, turning the poll numbers sideways and shifting the focus of this election from Barack Obama’s crusade to take back the nation from the Republican war machine to McCain, the old soldier who has managed to woo the press into eating up his image as a maverick candidate, despite the fact that he has no policy disagreements with his party or its financial backers and that he chose a truly frightening vice presidential candidate just to spread his numbers and build support in the conservative base.

The Palin story is huge. An extremely divisive and controversial figure, she has become an instant media star. I don’t get a lot of traffic on my blog, but the two articles I’ve written on Palin have put a huge spike in my numbers. I don’t know how many people are actually reading this stuff, but I’ve gotten twice as many hits in the last week from my analysis of the strategic reasons Palin was likely chosen than from my previous top post, my analysis of marriage rights following the California decision in May that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

What follows will be an analysis of both conventions followed by the impact they’ve had in the public dialogue and on reshaping the political landscape at the beginning of the conclusion of this election cycle. This is the first of three parts.

Part II: The Republican National Convention

Part III: Media Fallout and the New Election Landscape

Part I: The Democratic National Convention

In this year’s DNC, at times, it seemed like the Democratic Party may have finally noticed that part of the reason the Republicans have done so well (strategically, they were both quite close as far as actual public support) during the last two presidential elections is that they do a better job of making sure that every single voter on the extreme end of their base feels compelled to vote, rather than focusing on courting the undecided voters. The middle of the road isn’t a very good strategy because all you do when you spend all day denying claims that you’re too liberal or too conservative is to alienate your potential followers, giving them little reason to come to the polls while trying to woo undecided voters who have no reason to show up in the first place other than social obligation and may simply choose at random when they do.

Some of the Democratic speakers seemed a little less timid than they tend to be when taking the middle road and trying to seem like they are above the bickering of partisan politics. I think they’ve started to realize that those of us who have been paying attention over the last decade are looking for a party that will really take a stand against what is ever more obviously a party made up of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich, willing to increase the profits of their financial backers even if it means breaking our nation and the livelihood of its people. Many of us know that there is an organized movement to destroy the middle class in favor of a small ruling class and a mass of working poor, something which is happening all over the world and the United States will not be excluded. We used to turn a blind eye when it was going on internationally under Clinton, but now that it’s happening at home, the Democratic Party seems to finally be picking up on the fact that they have to speak to those of us who care about ethical economics.

John Kerry gave the kind of speech it would have been nice to hear when he was a candidate. I’d like to see more people making what should be a simple statement, that we should not be allowing, encouraging, or forcing our troops or our allies to torture our prisoners for any reason. This is an important point of discussion on McCain. For the sake of political expediency, he has not done enough to oppose policies meant to legalize some of the same forms of torture he endured as a prisoner of war. This is a less-than-maverick characteristic, as a matter of fact, it’s barely human. Kerry also called for an energy revolution, which is something he probably should have done during his own candidacy.

Hillary Clinton’s main job at the DNC was to patch things up with her more loyal supporters who got stuck with an Obama ticket. There’s no question that she would prefer Obama over McCain (unless she’s looking at 2012), and her “no way, no McCain” statement did the trick. The rest of the speech was rather presidential candidatey, rich with the kind of personal anecdotes that her husband made famous.

Bill Clinton didn’t tell any of his famous average American personal anecdotes during this convention. He was too busy giving an inspiring speech making surprisingly bold statements for such a classically middle of the road Democrat. He spent a lot of his time speaking to Hillary supporters and defending Obama’s preparedness to lead, but he touched on a few issues. He talked about the importance of diplomacy with military force being the last option, and the increasing income gap. He even gave a shout-out to unions, which is still a hard sell even when Wal-Mart is making a name for itself by requiring employees to sign away their right to organize.

Although he hasn’t been the most popular Google search, Joe Biden gave an excellent speech which will leave no doubt in the minds of those who heard it that this election is about the struggle we will face in correcting the devastation caused by the Bush administration and the economic burden it created. The bulk of the speech was a laundry list of McCain policies, “That’s not change, that’s more of the same!” and comparisons to Obama, “John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was right.” Do you remember the George W. Bush/John Kerry debate in 2004? I imagine Biden’s debate with Sarah Palin will be similar.

Barack Obama’s acceptance speech had a few Bill Clintonesque anecdotes and a candidate always tends to exaggerate or dance around certain issues to maintain that balance between courting new voters and keeping the base in line, but Obama’s speech actually seemed quite bold in some respects. More than anything, it was a continuation and expansion on what Biden delivered, a broad perspective on the national identity. While being careful to always emphasize hard work and education, Obama made it clear that he felt the government needs to intervene in the economic crisis facing our nation, and that the government has failed to help its constituents when they were in need.

Obama’s speech spoke to a lot of issues that coincide with my worldview. Presidential candidates do like to offer things that they may not even be able to do, considering the fact that they don’t actually legislate, they just approve or veto what Congress submits to them, but if Obama, as party leader, were to accomplish some of these things along with the Democrats in Congress, I would be quite pleased.

He proposed a 10-year plan to achieve independence from foreign oil, and without limited expansion of drilling, as it now seems he supports, I assume part of this would have to do with alternative fuels. I think 10 years is quite long enough to make a full transition from gasoline civilian automobiles to a completely different system altogether, and I would need to see the specifics of this plan, but I would definitely be excited if the Democratic Party really stood behind this and made it a part of their platform and gained control of Congress and the White House.

Obama pointed out one of the basic differences in the mindset of liberals and conservatives today when he was discussing the economy. He mentioned McCain’s false claims that Obama would raise taxes, quoting McCain’s $5 million a year line from the Saddleback forum, some would say out of context, but I believe it’s pertinent. He made reference to trickle-down theory and Reaganomics and went on to say, “We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500 but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off and look after a sick kid without losing her job, an economy that honors the dignity of work.” This is the kind of important issue that the Democrats tend to avoid, and I’m glad to see the actual situation working people in the U.S. are going through making its way into the public dialogue. It’s true, also, that there are different ways of measuring the success of the economy, and the way we tend to measure it is how rich the rich are. Business news always reports on how well a company is doing, and how much their stock is worth, but for most of us, this is not an important economic indicator. When these companies increase their profits, half the time they do so by finding a more desperate nation with a cheaper workforce that they can outsource. There’s a reason they call it “human resources”.

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