On the 2020 Conventions, Past and Ahead

To join the chorus:  Given what the Democrats had to accomplish last week, I would score their effort 9 out of 10.  I was very concerned during the first hour of the first night, which was both uneven and boring (a friend called the early minutes “a snooze”), and would maintain that the Democrats’ use of celebrities as moderators was less than befitting given the importance of the event, but starting with the second hour of the first night, I found it surprisingly arresting throughout.  A few impressions:

Putting aside until later the acceptance speech of Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, of the Convention’s many effective presentations – including one by former President Barack Obama, who clearly considers President Trump to be the existential threat to the American way of life that I have suggested in these pages — I found particularly powerful the talks by former U.S. AZ Rep. Gabby Giffords, a victim of gun violence, regarding our need for greater gun regulation, and by Kristin Urquiza, who declared of her father, a Trump supporter who had succumbed to COVID-19, “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump [that the Coronavirus was under control], and for that, he paid with his life.” That said — and speaking as a somewhat jaundiced political junkie that has seen, figuratively and perhaps literally, a thousand political speeches – I consider the words of young Braydon Harrington, who struggles with stuttering, on his relationship with and belief in Mr. Biden, as moving as anything I have ever witnessed.

For reasons I can’t readily describe, I have mentally paired what was to me a haunting part of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech and the presentations of former OH Gov. John Kasich and former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.  In her remarks, Sec. Clinton stated, “For four years, people have said to me, … ‘I wish I could go back and do it over.’ – or worse – ‘I should have voted.’” [Emphasis by Ms. Clinton – in the sense that she uttered the italicized words in her speech, but they are not in CNN’s published text.]  I found Messrs. Kasich’s and Powell’s message, that it was acceptable for Republicans distressed by Mr. Trump’s presidency to vote for Mr. Biden, both encouraging and disappointing — encouraging because these gentlemen have greater credibility than any liberal in coaxing conflicted Republicans to vote for Mr. Biden; disappointing because some of our citizens are so rigidly party-bound that despite deep misgivings about the leader of their party, they nonetheless require reassurance that it’s “okay” to break ranks.

As to Mr. Biden’s speech:  it was undoubtedly the Republican ticket’s worst nightmare.  He was cogent, energized, caring.  He didn’t look befuddled or scary, and the Republicans needed him to look one or the other.  What’s more, he did something that I didn’t think he had in him:  make us believe that he truly believes that America’s best days are ahead.  All Presidents and presidential candidates mouth it, but none since Ronald Reagan – including Bill Clinton and Mr. Obama, despite their oratory skills – have declared it in a manner such that I actually thought they believed it.  Joe Biden believes it.  Until his speech I had been pleased to support him because I considered him honorable, qualified, and the most generally-acceptable alternative to the wide swath of voters needed to defeat Mr. Trump; I considered Mr. Biden’s contribution to the nation if elected was likely to be limited to ridding us of the malignant Trump presidency.  His words and manner in his acceptance actually made me contemplate the possibility that a President Biden, despite his age and if he has a Democratic Congress, could, by drawing on input from disparate constituencies in old-school style, be a healer and achiever rather than simply a caretaker.  His speech made me more affirmatively for Joe.  One cautionary note:  While Mr. Biden’s thundering declaration, “If I’m your president, we’re going to protect Social Security and Medicare. You have my word,” undoubtedly played well in Florida, a pivotal Electoral College state, it also carried echoes of then-Republican presidential candidate George H. W. Bush’s similarly-thundering declaration, “Read my lips.  No new taxes.”  Social Security and Medicare will undoubtedly need revision over the next four years, but many of the actions proposed by experts to perpetuate these programs, as well as measures likely to be necessary to reduce our seemingly-crushing deficits after the Coronavirus has been brought under control, may well lend to an accusation that Mr. Biden failed in his pledge to “protect” these hallowed programs.

As to the Republican Convention upon us:  I have seen comments that the GOP will strive to have upbeat sessions, and that the President has been advised to primarily focus on the perceived strength of the pre-pandemic economy and assert that he is best suited to resuscitate it.  My comment:  the President is congenitally incapable of being uplifting.  Where he’s comfortable and effective from a political standpoint is hate, fear, resentment, and bitterness.  I have no doubt that he recognizes that he’s never going to get anybody to like him that doesn’t already, and fully expect that he intends to stick with what got him the presidency:  hate, fear, resentment, and bitterness.  Since there are almost certainly not enough heretofore nonvoting Trump supporters to overcome his apparent poll deficits, and Mr. Biden’s speech has pretty well dispelled the notion among the few remaining swing state undecideds that Mr. Biden isn’t up to the presidency, one can anticipate that Mr. Trump will try to scare those few undecideds back into the Trump camp with the “Biden is the prisoner of the socialist left that will seek to cancel you” claim.

As per the link below, the Republicans have decided to forego a party platform and simply “continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.”  For a party known for its bitter internecine platform battles over the last 70 years from those between Eisenhower internationalists and Taft isolationists to those between regulars and tea partiers, and currently between those who respectively favor and oppose more robust Congressional Coronavirus aid, I confess that even given Mr. Trump’s dominance, I am surprised at this level of the party’s capitulation to the President. 


“[H]ow often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind.”

Publius (Alexander Hamilton):  The Federalist No. 70

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