Democratic National Convention 2016
REVENGE OF THE POLITICIANS
The System Punches Back “Old School” In Philadelphia
In 1988, with his party facing long odds in keeping the White House for a dozen years, outgoing President Ronald Reagan told his party’s convention that there was no need for change. “We are the change,” he boldly stated. The Gipper said there was no need to stop the machine, it was doing just fine. This is the theme for current outgoing President Barack Obama, who has embodied the unflinching spirit of a man who never questioned the motives of his government or America as the shining promise to humanity. George H. W. Bush followed the eight years of a deified right wing administration, thus beginning a Bush dynasty that would seek the presidency through four elections in eight of the next twelve years, as now Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes the legacy of a left wing pillar, perhaps putting a capper on a Clinton political dynasty that would have a stake in four of the last six presidential elections.
This is the third-term of Barack Obama on trial; just as Bush would be Reagan’s, and like the Great Communicator, the Grand Orator is betting on above-water approval ratings, a stable economy and a sense among his faithful that the transformative eight years of his presidency is embraced by not only Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but a majority of the American electorate. By being the first sitting president to show up at his party’s convention since Reagan (both the toxicity of late-second-term Clinton and Bush were told to stay away), Obama made it clear that although ushering in a business man with zero political experience is as change as change could be, “We are the change.”
This is all ye need know about what went down for four days in late July in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention. The president’s point was driven home by a classic “Morning in America” speech and a phalanx of professional politicians, all of them winners; William Jefferson Clinton, Joe Biden, even Jimmy Carter via video hook-up; nary a John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale or Al Gore to be found mucking up the works. Winners of elections and debates; professionals, lifers making the case that a wild-card TV star becoming president is not only crazy, but dangerous, irresponsible and downright unpatriotic. They sold stability, status quo, strength and experience.
What the hell happened?
I grew up in the 1970s and lived through the 1980s into the ‘90s and then began writing regularly about politics then and into the era of 9/11, wherein Republicans embodied all of those things, while Democrats came with the outsider, long-shot that was likely to be pasted by someone waving flags, rolling out military personnel and entrenched establishment types. Now suddenly it’s the Democrats who are pitching more of the same-ol’ and appealing to our pragmatic core.
For four days, the Democrats filled the stage with preachers and gospel choirs evoking God wherever possible, pulled in military leaders and disgruntled moderate Republicans frightened by the prospect of a loose-cannon with his finger on the button, and selling this “Rise Up” American “exceptionalism” that was once owned by a Republican Party that has decided to blow it up and gather all of its chips into a singular cult-of-personality candidate. In other words, Trump’s convention was about Trump (and a whole lot of Hillary bashing), while Clinton’s was some kind of Kumbaya collective of flag-wrapping, goose-bump inducing tribute to all-things positive and sunny (with a whole lot of Trump bashing).
Ronald Reagan proved that myths can be powerful. His party embraced myths for decades, and now.. the battle for twenty-first century patriotism is on.
Poor Bernie Sanders, 74 year-old, socialist Vermont senator and recent presidential candidate, bested by the system that put on this show in his presence. He ranted for months about a revolution in front of millions of rabid, almost religious followers, many of them young and new to this whole shebang. They believed him and they were not buying any of his newly minted “solidarity/unity” jag. The first day of the convention he found himself angrily confronted by a humiliated California delegation of supporters who booed him like A-Rod at Fenway.
Then, later that day – the opening of the Hillary Show – nearly 1,900 of his delegates brought a bellowing voice of anti-establishment fervor that tried to raise its ugly head in Cleveland the week before but was crushed under the steel boot of the Trump Campaign. One delegate from Iowa told a reporter on MSNBC, “Bernie has been making us drink Mountain Dew for months, and now he wants us to go to bed.”
Throughout the next couple of days, entertained by Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz, a host of Broadway stars and Katy Perry they roused chants of “No TPP!” and “No more wars!” and used every mention of or any wave from Sanders to erupt in cheers.
None of that mattered. Sanders put it to bed by evoking the name Trump. This was the medicine to his thwarted revolution, which had been ignored by party chairman, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, who was booted before her own convention when the Russians or WikiLeaks or a combination of the Ring Wing Conspiracy and the Blue Meanies hacked into and leaked emails proving she had and used her bias for Madam Shoo-In throughout a process Sanders kept calling rigged right up until he gave this “unify” speech.
It wasn’t until First Lady Michelle Obama gave the speech of the convention that first night, filled with a sober, sensitive and endearing rhetoric, did the Sandersnistas quell, but only proportionally. They were still out there even when Madam Shoo-in accepted the nomination of her party the final day; waving “No-TPP” signs and shouting “Fix!” and “Rigged!” when given the opportunity.
And so Clinton’s acceptance speech, an historic moment in American politics (nearly a century after women received the right to vote, a woman finally represents a major political party), became a rallying cry to forget much of what irks the electorate (seven out of ten Americans think the country is on the wrong track, compared to four out of ten in 1988) and a defense of Obama’s America as the “real” America.
Ronald Reagan proved that myths can be powerful. His party embraced myths for decades, and now, it seems, due in part to the incredible negatives heaped upon both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that the battle for twenty-first century patriotism is on.