Notes on the DNC

September 9, 2012

Wonderful Ones,  I just want to say a few of things about the 2012 Democratic Convention which ended last week.  For the first time in our lives MM and I sat and watched the complete  broadcast of a political convention, in this case for three nights.  I didn’t know why exactly I was paying attention this time.  I certainly wasn’t able to bear more than a few minutes of the Republican’s version, although we did briefly check in on the gushing Anne Romney and then Clint Eastwood’s cring-worthy attempt at political theater.  I think it seemed as though, with Right Wing knife-fighters closing in on Obama and hoping to administer the coup de grace to any remaining notion of liberal governance in this country,  I needed to watch carefully for  what smoke signals the Democratic Party establishment would be sending, so as to understand if they were intimidated, or whether they even cared about defending this President.

Delegates at the DNC

Well, it turns out that they do care….most emphatically and passionately and vociferiously.  The sheer spectacle of this convention was one part of it’s message (I’ll say something about that in a minute), but most fascinating to me were it’s primetime speeches, all of which were just excellent, kick-ass statements of Dem solidarity with and admiration for Barack Obama.  There was no hint of the ambivalence that reportedly clouds the minds of progressives and liberals within the party when they reflect on Obama’s four years in the White House.

His wife, Michelle, explained his great heart and fine motives at length in a strong, persuasive voice;  Bill Clinton conducted (as someone called it) a “master class” in campaign truth and lies, and declared Obama to be the champion of the middle class that the nation deeply needs at this moment in history.  And Joe Biden movingly proclaimed his loyalty to “his friend” Barack and defended the President’s record so ferociously that at times he seemed about to burst into flame.  These and other Democratic  stalwarts, as well as it’s fresh-faced rising stars (Elizabeth Warren and the twin Castro brothers from Texas, as examples) spoke, and spoke so wonderfully that I fell in love with each one in turn….as did the gathered delegates who listened with wet eyes or stood and roared their appreciation.

There was a good reason for this.  It was part of The Plan that we should swoon over our party’s heros.  Back in the day (my childhood and earlier), conventions were generally political free-for-alls, with often intense jostling, polling, negotiating, shouting, speechifying and horse-trading sweeping back and forth across the floor of the hall.  The presidential and vice-presidential candidates were settled upon then, not during the months prior to the conventions as they are today, and intra-party partisanship was expected and messy and exciting to hear about….so democratic!

Then came TV, putting everyone on their best behavior.  Conventions slowly became showpieces rather than moments of decision, and now they are slick media events with almost no inherent drama.  Candidates are still “nominated”,  state party delegations still come to vote for “their” nominee, and the candidates, once “approved”, formally “accept” the honor of running for office. There was some scuffling in the background this time about certain details in the party’s platform language, but if you weren’t paying attention you wouldn’t have known that it was going on.

A convention then is all procedural and ceremonial but,  you know,  the night of the roll-call of state delegations I watched the entire countdown and it was definitely fun to see.  Each state has X number of delegate votes, some of which can go to one favored candidate and some to another.  In principle many votes may be taken to finally arrive at consensus but, as expected, all the votes of every state went to Obama on the first roll-call.

All those delegates, though, came in a wide variety of shapes and colors and genders–they really were “The People”–and they were genuinely excited and proud to have their moment, their say in the political process.  Before announcing it’s votes, the delegation representative(s) took the opportunity to boast about their “great” state of Virginia, or the “beautiful” state of Montana.   Sometimes they were sweet or creative or humorous in doing this; often small urgent speeches were made and sometimes the Party Secretary taking the votes had to keep things moving along, which she always did charmingly and firmly.  By the time the last state–Wyoming–was polled, the hall which had been thronged an hour and a half before was practically empty.  The big TV networks had long since ended their coverage and it was 1AM in Charlotte.  Still, I was glad to be on hand when the Democratic National Convention chairman, the major of Los Angeles, gaveled the day to a close in front of about fifty die-hard delegates and a crew of impatient technicians waiting to kill the lights.

So yeah, the DNC was basically a tightly choreographed television production, a three day mini-series specifically designed to get the delegates–the street-level activists of the party–and the unwashed mass of Democratic voters “fired up” for the last sixty days of the presidential campaign.  It wasn’t even a reality  show with the possibility of random surprises.  It was seamless, more like watching a movie– a REALLY well made movie.  This was a political film seemingly created by  Hollywood’s best writers and producers and directors.  The scriptwriters developed such GOOD word-perfect speeches, the directors worked intimately with the speech-givers and brought out their BEST preformances, while the producers assured that the MUSIC built just the right mood and that a fresh set of colorful SIGNS appropriate to the theme of each new speech (or thousands of American FLAGS!) was passed out to every attendee in the hall.  Whether Hollywood talent was actually involved or not, it was, I thought, a masterful piece of work and one which did indeed get me fired up.

By the end of the convention I felt reassured that Barack Obama (his speech here) had actually worked hard in our best interest, that he was in fact a man of principle, that his vision for the country was still intact and that his party does stand squarely with him.  I  was also persuaded that the Democratic party now has some backbone and is willing to push back against corporate and fat cat tax privilages and Big Money’s influence on government policy. These are the messages I got and I’m going to go with them.  Naturally, there is still a milling herd of tamped down contradictions and conflicts within the party, but for the moment it feels good that the convention has helped frame a unified, coherent Democratic opposition to the Romney campaign and to the Right Wing, anti-government hatchetmen who are standing in the shadows just behind him.

President Obama

Wonderful Ones, a thousand commentators have had oceans to say about  both party’s conventions, but if you’ve not had time to follow any of that during the hubbub at the start of school or while you’ve been hustling to meet a work deadline, then maybe these thoughts  offer a hint of what the Dems, at least, hoped to communicate.  And hey, maybe you’re even “fired up” too!



2 Responses to “Notes on the DNC”

  1. I watched more of this convention than any other thus far, which is to say that I saw Michelle Obama’s speech, and got the cliff notes on the rest from the hubs. I’m still feeling unhappy about his tactics in the counter terrorism campaign, but if Bush Jr got a second go around I can’t see why he shouldn’t get another shot.

  2. nerponline said

    Right, the drone program is ugly and hard to reconcile. But overall Obama is a President who’s ending wars instead of starting them….which is a huge improvement on Junior’s legacy.

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