There Are Lessons Here, Part One

The conventions are over. And in spite of being very busy for the last few months and not having the time or inclination to post here, I did watch quite a bit of the conventions. With those in mind, here are some takeaways.

The conventions were what they always are: long-winded, hyper-patriotic babble-fests focused on besmirching the other side and making just a few mentions of their own platforms. But in the end, the presumptive nominees of each major party became the actual nominees, VP candidates were selected, and the campaigning, such as it is, has finally begun in earnest. And so has the complaining. On both sides.

First off, let’s begin with some givens:

  1. Both campaigns this year have made an art out of going out of their way to get in their own way.
  2. No, neither candidate is really that appealing as a candidate FOR the presidency, so voting against the other appears to be the only option.
  3. There were better candidates either with a stronger message or a better chance of being elected who aren’t in the final mix.

As with just about every other political junkie in this country, I came out of each convention with a bunch of questions, wondering how things have come to this point, and who let these things happen.

For instance: For a convention that borrowed Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, it was remarkably negative. Which made me wonder: is the whole of the Republican platform and viewpoint reflective of that negativism? The answer, it seems, is yes. To hear them tell it, God–at least the Christian God which, the right asserts, is the entire foundation of our nation–is being forced out of the nation, in favor of Islam. Or Godlessness. Because current leadership is anxious to import Muslims who’ve had their lives torn up by civil war in their home countries. The whole of the GLBT community is on a quest to destroy Christianity by forcing their morals into law through court cases, to the point that sometime soon, the entire Supreme Court roster will be forced to wear rainbow robes over garish underwear whilst singing our new national anthem, which will be any Judy Garland song.

Our freedoms, the Republicans asserted, are being taken away–though there was no actual mention of which liberties or how and when they’ve been taken away–and there was always the constant threat of having the 2nd Amendment repealed and the government coming to claim all the guns. Illegal immigration is a threat. Socialism is a threat. Obamacare is a threat. Crime is a threat. ISIS is a huge threat. The economy’s a disaster. And instead of substantive solutions, we were presented with a Chris Christie-led indictment of Hillary Clinton regarding her emails and Bengazi, and a rambling, run-on diatribe by Donald Trump who kept promising to tell us what he’d do as president, but never once actually mentioned an achievable policy (and don’t count the wall. Congress, regardless of who controls them, will never release the money needed to build the wall, even if getting paid for it by Mexico was an absolute lock).

It struck me by the time things finally wrapped up late that Thursday night that it was 4 solid days of depressing, anger-filled assurances that the world is a shit hole and likely won’t ever come back. And that made me wonder: how in the hell do you actually run a national campaign on that?

It isn’t a platform as much as it is a horror film. In the end, the Republicans have clung to basically 2 ideas for the campaign: Hillary deserves to be jailed and not put in the White House, and everything’s horrible because of Obama’s policies. What? Congress passes the laws, you say? And that’s been controlled by the Republicans for how long? And what’s shocking is that they’ve actually decided this is their whole national platform, to the point that if you’ve seen any local ads, the same theme is waved in some form or another. Here in Minnesota, Stewart Mills is running against the incumbant Rick Nolan (again), and released ads that are banging the same ISIS/Islamic/Syrian immigration drum that Trump is.

I’m to the point where I’m really wondering if these messages will actually reach and convert any more people. Because it’s tired, and mean spirited, and deep down, I believe that people in this nation are thankfully not predominantly of the “America First” viewpoint that Trump has been espousing. We’re smarter and more open-minded than that.

Which brings us to the Democratic side, where Hillary should have an easy time of it, except that she continues to be the smartest person in the room with the best ability to shoot herself in the foot.

She screwed up when it came to the email server. Period. End of story. So when the story came to light, the correct response was to immediately own up to it and issue a deep, broad, heart-felt apology, acknowledging it was wrong, and saying it will never happen again because she has learned her lesson. Because when you apologize in such a way that people empathize with you over the mistake, they’re likely to tune things out when the other side tries to keep the story in the headlines. But like every six-year-old caught doing something wrong, Clinton’s first response to every charge is some take of “What? No. Not me, not ever. Others made me do it. Others did it before, I was just copying them. I didn’t do anything wrong!” It’s disingenuous. It comes off as lying, even if it isn’t. And the problem is that through all scandals in her life since she’s been a public person, she’s always said the same things. So naturally, people have to wonder where the transparency is.

She has her brilliant moments, though. She is a practiced, genius politician. Bernie had a great chance of winning the nomination, except that when Clinton finally realized she was in real trouble, she modified her positions, moved further to the left, embraced large chunks of the Sanders platform, and made the arguments as if they were her own, and Sanders couldn’t recover from that. When her numbers began going back up, she proved to many that she could carry the banner and actually win the election.

Sure, that’s pragmatism, but it’s how politics in this nation has operated for a couple of centuries, now. Those who aren’t pragmatic go the way of the Whigs. Remember them?

Part Two coming tomorrow.