Every political event has its pre-game prophesies and post-game analysis – and nothing more so than the quadrennial national political conventions. So, what can be said about the first day of the Democratic National (non) Convention? I say “non” because one of the primary definitions of “convention” is an assemblage of people with a common interest. At least that is conventional wisdom.
The Virtuality of the Democrat convention
Thanks to the Covid-19 Pandemic there is nothing conventional about this convention. So, let’s start with the virtual format. It is what it is – and what it mostly had to be. But … it lacked a LOT of the excitement, intrigue, tensions and informational benefit associated with these events in the past. There were no surprises. It lacked a sense of drama. It was a television comedy without even a laugh track.
There were no interviews from the floor juxtaposing differing viewpoints on strategy, platform and personalities. The natural cracks in the political party’s foundation were hidden beneath a carpet of banal commentary. No such convention in American history has been so tightly stage-managed.
The speeches were given from locations far and wide. There were no interruptions by cheers, applause or even those occasional boos. They were all carefully crafted and well delivered. If you know how these conventions operate, you know that none of those speeches were impromptu. They were crafted … scripted … mostly with the help of speechwriters — and they were all approved by the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Not only were the speeches predictable – confined to what any quasi-interested person could have predicted – they were largely pre-empted by the national reporters who gave us a glimpse of the highlights from their advance copies. We knew that former the First Lady was assigned to be the political pit bull – and that she would resurrect her “we go high” phraseology from the 2016 campaign.
We knew how former Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich was going to explain his political apostasy — and fulfill his mission to encourage Republicans to desert with him – because he told us so in ubiquitous interviews in the lead-up.
Biden’s and his handlers’ decision to keep the candidate sequestered – watching the whole thing on television screens – tended to reinforce his image as an incapacitated candidate. The only worse imagery would have been if Biden was watching from a hospital bed. It had the same feel.
Of the first day line-up, only three seem worthy of analysis – Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders and John Kasich. The rest could best be described as predictable political pablum. Using people like Kristin Urquiza who related the pain of losing her father to Covid-19, could be a double-edged sword. While it is meant to produce sympathy as an attack on President Trump, it can also give viewers a sense that the human heartbreak is being used crassly for political purposes.
Without doubt, the former First Lady had the most effective speech of the night – but that does not mean it earned the unqualified hyperbolic praise that it received from the fawning news media. It was a good speech – well delivered.
Her purpose was to take it to Trump – more or less the theme of the first day. She did that very well in a partisan political sense. What brought it down to a B+ was her over-the-top Draconian prediction. Her suggestion that people should vote as if their lives depended on it was a bit much. Personally, I do not believe my natural life – my very existence –depends on whether Trump or Biden wins the presidency. Perhaps the quality of my life, my economic well-being or my sense of personal freedom based on government policies – but life, itself? Nay.
If voters just read the headline, “Bernie Sanders supports Joe Biden,” they can rightfully conclude that the unrepentant socialist’s speech was a boost for the Biden/Harris ticket. BUT … if voters – especially the moderate and uncommitted voters – had listened to Sander’s left-wing screed, it may have benefited Trump.
It is likely that Sanders’ mission was NOT to lure in the undecideds but to keep the radical left faction from not voting – or even voting for Trump, as many did when Bernie got derailed by Hillary Clinton and the leadership of the Democratic National Committee in 1916.
Maybe the Democrat strategist had to take the risk of letting Sanders scare off a few moderates in order to hold on to a greater number of potential left-wing voters – who may not take Sander’s lead as they did not take it in 2016.
If you listened to Sanders – and believe him – a Biden administration will be delivering the most left-wing policies in the history of the nation. Sanders has all but proclaimed it. He sees Biden as the pathway to Medicare-for-All, free college, a high minimum wage, the expansion of mandatory union membership and the expansion of the public sector. That what his convention message was to America.
The only discernible difference to be observed in the Sanders speech is that he was well groomed – surrendering the wild professor look.
No one in politics can surpass Kasich for whiney praise of himself. He does not use the brash egocentricity of Trump, but rather an actor’s well-rehearsed on-stage humility. His problem is that his laments appear to be too obviously concocted — as if he does not believe them, himself.
Kasich performed as expected. He claimed that his apostasy to the conservative cause – not just the Republican Party – was a noble act of putting country ahead of party. That has been the siren call of Democrats trying to persuade Republicans to desert.
But for many Americans, who honestly believe that supporting Trump IS the best choice for America, Kasich’s claim – along with the Democrats’ – comes across as nothing more than establishmentarian arrogance. It goes along with the variations of the “basket of deplorables” concept that Democrats and the media constantly use against anyone who does not share their uniformly hostile opinion of the President.
The role of the news(?) media
Because of the virtual on-screen format of the convention, it was not easy to distinguish when the event actually commenced and ended. That is because outlets like CNN and especially MSNBC appeared to have been on the official program. There was no objective analysis. Just a lot of boxes on the screen with talking heads attacking Trump, Republicans and conservatives. Just more talking heads carrying the anti-Trump, pro-Biden talking points.
Everyone should be able to recognize that MSNBC is totally in bed with the Biden campaign specifically and the political left generally. If anyone harbored any doubt, they only had to see the line up of convention commentators. They were Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, Nicole Wallace in the lead-off spot – and the men, Brian Williams, Ari Belcher and Chris Hayes, popping up later. The network could not have put more biased and journalistically corrupt individuals had they tried. And God knows MSNBC has a large stable of others from which to choose.
This drumbeat of political sophistry carried through the morning rush-hour with John Berman and Alisyn Camerota at CNN and Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC. As is always the case, the MSNBC regular cast was empaneled to carry the water for the Biden team. Scarborough followed his tradition of waxing on ineloquently – with an annoying number of repetitions of the same old Democrat talking-points.
Sidekick supplicant Willie Geist was there to endorse and repeat whatever Scarborough said. AP’s White House correspondent Jonathan Lemire took up his regular seat as one of the panel’s most consistent critics of Trump. How a person so jaded and so far outside the ethical boundary of journalism would be assigned as the news service’s White House reporter is inexplicable. But such is the nature of the east coast news media these days.
My general reaction is that the Democrats gained nothing from their first day. If they do not do better in the next daily sessions, Democrats will hand the Republicans a HUGE opportunity to seize the initiative as the campaigns go into the debates – assuming Biden is brave enough or well enough to leave his bunker.
So, there ‘tis.
Editor’s Note: Actually I thought the stage management was rather sloppy, given how boring it was. Watch how much better the Republican Convention will be, given that Trump will likely have experts from his Apprentice days.