I know that most people don’t watch the party conventions before presidential elections, and to be honest, I usually don’t watch them in their entirety either. But with so much at stake in this election, with a narcissistic, misogynistic, Cheeto-tinged, egomaniacal, white-supremacist inspired, fascist-dictator, threatening to be the last of my baby boomer generation to hold the office of President, I watched both conventions this year. After all, we already get blamed for everything from Watergate to the Vietnam War. What I saw was startling. In Cleveland, OH Donald J. Trump has literally turned the GOP upside down and dumped them into the gutter.
When Hillary Clinton stepped to the podium on the final night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA to accept her party’s nomination for president, she attempted to do something that Democrats have rarely succeeded in doing.
She tried to convince America that she was the only real American leader in the race.
I have many favorite lines from this particularly well-coordinated, well-produced, and well-orchestrated convention. Here’s one of my favorites from Hillary Clinton: “Here’s the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump,” Clinton said. “This is it. And in the end, it comes down to what Donald Trump doesn’t get: that America is great because America is good.”
Thanks to Donald Trump — and his dark, gloomy, and inwardly-projective vision of America — the opening was there. And in Philadelphia, the entire convention skillfully dissected Donald J. Trump like a dead frog; from Michael Bloomberg, who laid waste to Donald’s business acumen to Kazir Kahn, (father of fallen US Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan) who held up his copy the United State Constitution for Trump to read they shamed the Donald in the most powerful, sincere, and moving ways imaginable.
Questioning the patriotism of Democrats while claiming motherhood and apple pie for themselves is something Republicans have done for decades. They did it with Carter and “the malaise.” They did it with Dukakis and the tank. They did it with Kerry and France. They did it with Obama and the birth certificate.
But this year, Trump is making it very hard for the GOP to do it again — and easy for Democrats to turn the tables on them. His training wheels are coming off as he passive-aggressively cowers behind his keyboard sending out juvenile tweets because they’re free, he’s a coward, and he’s a proven moocher and scam artist.
When history looks back at the 2016 conventions, these are the parts that will be highlighted. Forget Ted Cruz’s mutiny. Forget the Bernie boo-bots. The press has spent the past two weeks obsessing over the intraparty differences on display in Cleveland and Philadelphia, not to mention the hideous practice of making their broadcasts more about themselves than the conventions (thank god for C-Span). But if you pan back and look at the big picture. The entire comparison really boils down to one essential question:
Which Party and candidate really represents what it means to be an American?
The rambling, disjointed, 76-minute monologue that Donald Trump stumbled through in Cleveland was perhaps the least patriotic-sounding convention speech in the last 40 years. Slate’s Franklin Foer noted its “strangely foreign quality.”
- No mention of American heroes.
- No mention of our troops in uniform.
- No mention of American history.
- No mention of past presidents.
- No mention of anybody except, of course, himself.
The intended Trump convention impression was supposed to be “America First,” which sounds patriotic until you consider its origin is the exact same uniting cry of a group of WWII anti-Semitic isolationists who were determined to keep the United States from going to war with Nazi Germany; and it bears at least partial blame for our delaying to engage for so long that our enemies were able to try and knock us out before we could even enter the ring with the crippling decimation at Pearl Harbor.
Instead, Trump used his prime time opportunity to portray modern-day America as a fictional, imaginary place where life is extremely bad because of deprivation or oppression (dystopia) — “worse than it has ever been before,” with hundreds of thousands of law-breaking illegal immigrants “tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens” and murder on the rise because of this “administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement.”
None of which is born from fact, of course. It’s simply another act of plagiarism that’s identical to Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign right down to it’s slogans. you see, Donnie boy also thinks America is stupid and won’t remember.
And the only solution, according to Trump, was Trump. Not faith. Not American determination. Not democracy. Not patriotism. Not family values. Not free-market economics. Not the Republican Party, that he’s supposed to represent! Not even the American people.
“I alone can fix it,” Trump said in his acceptance speech. Typical Trump narcissism.
In Cleveland, Trump ripped open a chasm and decimated the GOP’s vision for America. In Philadelphia, Democrats demonstrated how to fill that crevasse with a night-by-night, hour-by-hour, literal cross-section of modern day Americans, who are already desperately trying to make America a better place for everyone, with less and less help from Republican governance.
At times the effect was jarring:
When Gen. John Allen told the convention Thursday night that commander in chief Clinton “will oppose and resist tyranny as we defeat evil” — barking out his words like Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” — the response was a tad disjointed at first: Scattered Bernie Sanders delegates shouted “No more war!”; while the rest of the arena completely drowned them out by chanting “USA! USA!”
And when Tim Kaine spoke about faith, and Reverend Doctor William Barber spoke about the hijacking of faith for political expediency, they showed Democrats are also a party of faith.
“Now we had a motto in my school, ‘Men for Others,’” Barber said. “And it was there that my faith became something vital. My north star for orienting my life. And when I left high school, I knew that I wanted to battle for social justice.”
When Michelle Obama spoke about family values, she showed in emotional, genuine, and sincere elegance that Democrats are the real party of family values.
“You see, Hillary understands that the president is about one thing and one thing only,” she said. “It’s about leaving something better for our kids. That’s how we’ve always moved this country forward, by all of us coming together on behalf of our children, folks who volunteer to coach that team, to teach that Sunday school class, because they know it takes a village.”
When Joe Biden spoke about patriotism, he made Democrats sound like the party of patriotism.
“It’s never, never, never been a good bet to bet against America,” he said. “We have the finest fighting force in the world. Not only do we have the largest economy in the world, we have the strongest economy in the world. We have the most productive workers in the world. And given a fair shot, given a fair chance, Americans have never, ever, ever, ever, let their country down. Never.” And he went on, “How can there be pleasure in saying, ‘You’re fired’? He’s trying to tell us he cares about the middle class? Give me a break. That’s a bunch of malarkey,” Biden said. “This guy doesn’t have a clue about the Middle Class. Not a clue.”
When Khizr Khan (see 4th paragraph above), spoke about the Constitution, he made Democrats sound like the only party that cares about the Constitution.
“[Donald Trump] vows to build walls and ban us from this country,” he said. “Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’”
When President Obama, arguably the best orator in the last 50 years, talked about Hillary Clinton:
“I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.” “Hillary was tough. I was worn out. She was doing everything I was doing, but like Ginger Rogers, it was backwards in heels.”
or when he talked about Donald Trump’s narcissism:
“He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear. He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election. That is another bet that Donald Trump will lose. Because he’s selling the American people short. We are not a fragile or frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled.”
And in the end, when Hillary Clinton spoke about the American people on Thursday night — in a speech that mentioned the Second Continental Congress, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Cuban missile crisis, and John McCain — she made Democrats sound like the only party that believes in the American people.
“Don’t believe anyone who says: ‘I alone can fix it,‘” she said, referring to that inward-looking line from Trump’s Cleveland speech. “Really? ‘I alone can fix it?’ Isn’t he forgetting troops on the front lines? Police officers and firefighters who run toward danger? Doctors and nurses who care for us? Teachers who change lives? Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem? Mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe?” “He’s forgetting every last one of us,” Clinton said. “Americans don’t say: ‘I alone can fix it.’ We say: ‘We’ll fix it together.’”
Yes, this is politics. Clinton is trying to win an election. Many Republicans still believe in family,faith, patriotism, democracy and Americans. But when Trump says he wants to withdraw from NATO, or build a wall (contrasted to uber-Republican President Ronald Reagan’s tearing down the Berlin Wall), or ban Muslims, or that Vladimir Putin is a strong leader, or that he[Trump] alone can fix America, he makes it infinitely simpler for Democrats to argue that no, the Republicans in general, and Donald J. Trump, in particular, don’t really care about what they say they do.
In Cleveland, Ohio, Donald Trump ripped a hole in the Republican’s claims with narcissism and self-indulgence. And in Philadelphia, Clinton and the Democrats filled it in with concrete plans and real Americans who are willing to do the hard work together to keep it great.