September 6, 2004
POLITICS: Not The Dream Team
You know, on watching the Democratic and GOP Conventions, a parallel occurred to me to explain why the Democrats, despite having a modestly well-received and tightly-disciplined convention, weren't nearly as successful as the Republicans. You see, putting together a good convention is sort of like assembling a good US Olympic basketball team.
The Democrats, like the US Olympians, started with a decent foundation: a two-time champion (Bill Clinton, Tim Duncan) and a guy with few accomplishments but much talent and potential (Barack Obama, LeBron James). But, like the US Olympic team with the likes of Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson, the Democrats overloaded their dias with guys who were there more because they were big names and big egos than because they fit into a gameplan to win the fight they're engaged in. Thus, Al Gore. Thus, Jimmy Carter. Thus, Ted Kennedy. And, like the Olympians, they then sent these guys up there in circumstances (in the Dems' case, a stern warning against anger and full-throated Bush-bashing) in which they couldn't even play to their strengths.
The GOP had no such problem. Former presidents Bush and Ford and Bob Dole, the last three guys to lose a national election for the GOP? Love ya, guys, but no invite to the podium. Prominent congressional leaders like Hastert, DeLay, Frist, Santorum? All were deemed bad speakers (Hastert), too controversial (DeLay, Santorum) or both (Frist), and buried in the early evening or not asked to speak. Party maverick John McCain, liberal Republicans Giuliani and Schwarzenegger and Democratic defector Zell Miller? Asked to step up but limited to playing a role, setting up the president's message in the areas where they agreed with him. About the only "vanity" appearance that went over poorly was Bush's daughters.
The Democrats put on too many of their All-Stars without regard to how those guys would advance the ball with swing voters, yet kept them too muted (unlike Miller) to fire up the base. The GOP ensured that everyone at the Convention was there to set up the big man. That's a team - it's winning basketball, and it's winning politics too.
I love how at the time the Democrats were lambasted by Fox News and the right for having an "extreme makeover" Convention that was completely misleading and not representative of the wacko lefty Democratic Party. This continued right up through Arnold's "True Lies" line.
I say speeches by Dean, Gore and the "supposed 1,2,3" liberal Senators wasn't exactly a Masquerade Ball for the Dems. Yes, they restrained the rhetoric, but weren't afraid to show the liberal face of the Party.
The Republicans are the ones that hid the true face of the Party by trotting out the most moderate (even pro-choice and gay-friendly) Republicans and made sure the guys actually calling the shots in the Party (the DeLays, etc) were nowhere to be found.
I think the imcumbent President and his Party might actually have some accomplishments to brag about as well as some lofty goals for the future, but instead all we got was a week of character assassination and attacks on the challenger.
I guess that's all you've got to go with if your record doesn't stand up.
As far as the success or failure of the Conventions, its all in the eye of the beholder. You were there, Crank. Plus you are pretty much a true believer, so it's no surprise that you think the RNC Convention was a resounding success. I'm not so sure that's the universally accepted review.
Kerry showed he was the convetional wisdom candidate - the press said conventions don't matter and no one will get a boucne so Kerry played along with the idea.
Bush (or Rove or Lord Vader or whoever) didn't buy inot this CW and put on a convention to serve their needs - as a result they got a unified party, fired up base and pretty impressive bounce and 'Big Mo'.
In many respects this was like the 2002 elections where Bush refused to settle for just avoiding house/senate losses that the CW said were inevitable and instead went out with an aggressive plan to pick up seats.
Same with how he behaved in 2001 by boldly pursuing his domestic agenda even though he lacked an electoral mandate.
You can also see this in the Afghan campaign, where they implemented a 'transformed' strategy and avoided the CW forecasting quagmires in the 'graveyard of empires' or the 'harsh Afghan winters'.
As a leaer one of Bush's best traits is his unwillingness to settle for the conentional wisdom.
You nailed this post, Crank. Right-on w/r/t the RNC and the U.S.A. Olympic basketball team.