A Democrat shares his thoughts on the RNC -- and makes an intriguing prediction.
I watched the second night of the Republican National Convention the same way you fall in love or go bankrupt: gradually, but then suddenly stricken by a strange and somewhat inexplicable premonition. It was this: Donald John Trump is going to win in November, and win big.
Yeah, I know all about the polls. I understand the deep distaste many Americans, including some traditional Republican voters, feel for the president. I am well aware of the criticism of his conduct in handling COVID-19, or the riots following George Floyd’s death, or any number of issues. And yet, as Trump’s first surprise election ought to have taught us by now, when it comes to modern American politics, the only principle that truly matters is the Ooga Chaka principle: We vote for the candidate who gets us hooked on a feeling and high on believing.
Last week, the Democrats used their convention to deliver three key messages: Joe Biden is a very decent person; Joe Biden is not Donald Trump, who is not a very decent person; and, being both a very decent person and not-Donald-Trump, Joe Biden is passionate about amplifying the voices of women and minorities, which is one important way to prove both your decency and your not-Trumpiness.
Who, precisely, might get hooked by these messages, and on what feeling? That Biden is a decent person is indisputable anywhere outside the airless quarters of the most quarrelsome partisans. That he shares little with the man he hopes to defeat is obvious—by now, Trump’s fans and detractors alike have very few misconceptions about the man’s character. That leaves us with the DNC’s heavy schmear of identity politics, a sentiment that doubtless resonates with the party’s educated, affluent base but says very little to those weary Americans who wonder why their cities are burning and why on earth anyone would ever want to defund the police.
The RNC, on the other hand, had a much more hearty offering on hand. It had no actors, singers, comedians, billionaires, academics, or former presidents present to offer perfectly polished paeans to character. Instead, it had people of faith affirming the singular importance of safeguarding the freedom of religion; immigrants affirming the notion, not controversial until very recently, that an American citizenship was an exceptional honor, not a universal right; blue-collar workers affirming the all-American reliance on small businesses, not tech behemoths; law enforcement officials affirming the foundational truth that, in America, when we disagree, we talk things over, not burn things down; and African Americans affirming the belief, central to the thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. and entirely alien to the current crop of race hustlers, that it’s the content of one’s character, not the color of one’s skin, that ought to matter.
In other words, whereas one party had the same narrow dogma repeated verbatim with very little variation, the other had—dare we say it?—diversity: of gender and of race and of experience, but also, more importantly, of interests and ideas.
This is not to say that watching both conventions will get a sizable number of voters to stop worrying and learn to love Donald Trump. But it is to say that it’s becoming increasingly more clear that the Democrats’ real problem isn’t the party’s aging candidate or its rambunctious left flank but, rather, its relationship with reality itself.