Wednesday, September 05, 2012


MODERN POLITICAL CONVENTIONS HAVE OFTEN BEEN DERIDED by supercilious elements of the Idiot Punditocracy as collossal boring spectacles, now that their original purpose — the actual nomination of a president — is gone the way of the Dodo bird. Dubious political "reforms" extended the GOP primary season beyond any reasonable time frame by the RNC's political mastermind,  Michael Steele, with unintended consequences.

Rather than expanding democracy, Steele's dabbling paved the way for trial runs of the new weapons of mass political destruction, super PACs and unlimited dirty money restricting "democracy" to the richest man standing, anointed by the new billionaire party bosses and the PRC in smokeless (?) secret transnational boardrooms. They'd make Boss Tweed look like the political reform equivalent of Mother Theresa. Interestingly, the clueless creator of relegating the GOP's Tea Party majority to the witness protection program saw his efforts roundly rewarded when "Tea Party" was not mentioned a single time in GOP convention speeches.

Meanwhile, our incomprehensible Ron Paul groupie Rachel Maddow was shoving us down one rabbit hole after another with byzantine tales of the Paulistas grabbing ad hoc delegates and changing caucus results, conjuring up images of a Paul convention insurgency which never materialized. Barely a hiccup. Whatever happened to the 'Night of the Austrian Economists'? But Rachel's relentless critique of money in politics, prompting Michael Moore to speak up on her behalf that the election is already lost no matter what we do, contradicts her rose-colored promo that our one vote actually counts in a corrupt system awash with dirty money and Diebold voting machines.

C'mon Rachel, say it ain't so. You couldn't be perpetuating the farce just for the sake of ratings and that little election day jingle, could you? If you believe as Michael does, and I think you do, come clean, else run another promo like: "Are you feeling lucky? If so, get out there and vote ... you never know ... Whatever you do, don't be dissuaded."

On the bright, hopeful, and transparent side, what we saw last night was the very best of our political culture, a rich pageant representing the Democratic Party in all its storied glory. The forward-looking tribute to Ted Kennedy, gave us an unbroken historical link to every progressive, liberal American president dating back to Lincoln and beyond (American history's 'six degrees of separation') and a reminder of the last Democrat to have defeated, and eviscerated, Mitt Romney with Teddy's hilarious rhetorical shortcuts —'I also favor the "Roe v. Wade"' and 'I don't need to see "your paper," show the American people "your paper"' (yeah, Mitt, we want to see your fucking tax "paper"); then on Romney taking every position Teddy took, 'at the rate he's going he'll end up "voting for me!"' Ted won his Senate re-election in a landslide.

The video prompted GOP whiner-in-chief Reince Priebus to bitch the Democrats had been "classless" in highlighting his secretive presidential candidate Mitt Romney's utter humiliation to the grand old Lion of the Senate. A ridiculous charge, and a suggestion for baby Reince: Touch base with Ann Romney, pipsqueak; she's your self-appointed authority on being a "grownup" and she's sitting inside a mighty big glass mansion.

It was a vision of two political parties contrasted, back-to-back, each forging its appeal to the single constituency which will decide this election: America's fickle "undecided" Middle Class. On the Republican side, they put on a grotesque smoke-and-mirrors sideshow designed to deceive and appeal to people's greed, pitching get-rich-quick every-man-a-king snake oil to gullible, desperate consumers. The Republicans were short on specifics but long on false identity. After endless testimonials to dubious humble beginnings, these phony middle classers pulled almost every trick in the book short of claiming they grew up in the proverbial log cabin with an outhouse in back.

While Marco Rubio represents the narrowest, most entitled and most privileged slice of Latino-Americans, Cuban-Americans, his tale of a father tending bar and a mother working as a Wal-Mart clerk, implying their sacrifice and hard work is exceptional rather than the norm for Latino immigrants, seems anecdotal and meaningless given his failure to absorb the life-lessons most Latino-Americans have taken from their parents' sacrifice. Rubio's identification with the anti-immigrant, anti-Dream Act Republican Party is akin to being a Nazi collaborator in Vichy France or the Warsaw Ghetto. As Pierre BerastaĆ­n, a Harvard Divinity School student and Media Relations Director of the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition, wrote:
"[My father] worked (and still works) until his knees could no longer hold him so that one day I could attend Harvard and do the work I love. Never—not even as a child—did the sacrifices of my parents escape me. America is special, indeed, because this is a land where we are free to dream. However, dreams not always come true. Where is my DREAM, sir?"
In sharp contrast, the DNC's keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, spoke to his rich, multicultural experience with all the pride of a newly-minted American who gets it, who knows where he came from and where he's going: (Emphasis mine.)
"My family's story isn't special. What's special is the America that makes our story possible. Ours is a nation like no other, a place where great journeys can be made in a single generation. No matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward. 

America didn't become the land of opportunity by accident. My grandmother's generation and generations before always saw beyond the horizons of their own lives and their own circumstances. They believed that opportunity created today would lead to prosperity tomorrow. That's the country they envisioned, and that's the country they helped build. The roads and bridges they built, the schools and universities they created, the rights they fought for and won—these opened the doors to a decent job, a secure retirement, the chance for your children to do better than you did."
Expanding on the theme, Mayor Castro spoke of the importance of investing in education:
"We know that you can't be pro-business unless you're pro-education. We know that pre-K and student loans aren't charity. They're a smart investment in a workforce that can fill and create the jobs of tomorrow. We're investing in our young minds today to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow. [...]

We know that in our free market economy some will prosper more than others. What we don't accept is the idea that some folks won't even get a chance. And the thing is, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are perfectly comfortable with that America. In fact, that's exactly what they're promising us.

The Romney-Ryan budget doesn't just cut public education, cut Medicare, cut transportation and cut job training. It doesn't just pummel the middle class—it dismantles it. It dismantles what generations before have built to ensure that everybody can enter and stay in the middle class. When it comes to getting the middle class back to work, Mitt Romney says, "No." When it comes to respecting women's rights, Mitt Romney says, "No." When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, "No." When it comes to expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney says, "No." 

Actually, Mitt Romney said, "Yes," and now he says, "No." Governor Romney has undergone an extreme makeover, and it ain't pretty. So here's what we're going to say to Mitt Romney. We're going to say, "No."
It was a great speech, defining for Americans who take their roots for granted what it means to be a nation of immigrants; and reminding us that it was immigrant labor, willing and shackled in slave labor, which built this great country with its sweat and toil so that today's "entrepreneurs" might advantage themselves of it, as Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett did, or exploit it as Mitt Romney has. All's fair in making money, as long as it's legal, even if it doesn't improve people's quality of life. But don't tell us you built that without the benefit of the American Dream, as described by Mayor Castro: "In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don't always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor."

Mayor Castro's speech, along with other notable moments (too many to mention), including war hero Tammy Duckworth's  spellbinding account of her ordeal, and Massachusetts Governor DeVal Patrick's fierce challenge (much welcomed in these parts) to Democrats — "If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it's time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe!" — set the table for First Lady Michelle Obama's sublime speech, the best ever delivered by a first lady on such a stage.

In sharp contrast, again, to the Romneys' dispassionate homilies and 'remember-when-hahaha-we were so poor' anecdotes, Michelle passionately connected with US, the vast but tattered American Middle Class, because she and Barack and their girls came from us. When she spoke of our President, the man she fell in love with all these years ago, she said what she feared most, that the presidency would change him, didn't happen: "Well, today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are— it reveals who you are."

Without once mentioning Mitt Romney's name, Michelle Obama launched into what has rightly been described as a "devastating" attack on Romney on the single, most fundamental quality a president must possess: character.

This part of her speech, for me and judging by the audience reaction, was the most powerful, when she had us in the palm of her hand: (Emphasis mine.)
"We learned about dignity and decency — that how hard you work matters more than how much you make. that helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself.

We learned about honesty and integrity — that the truth matters. that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules. and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.

We learned about gratitude and humility — that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean. And we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect."
We all knew to whom the First Lady was referring. One of the night's biggest applause lines was, "the truth matters." We were reminded that the President has a record of accomplishments in the face of fierce, un-American, traitorous Republican obstructionism, that rivals the most historic first-term presidencies. And we were reminded of why we voted for Barack Obama in the first place; not, unless you're very young and star-crossed, on some diffuse "hope and change" pie-in-the-sky promise, but because of the vision and intelligence and, yes, character we discerned in the candidate during one of the darkest moments in our nation's history. It wasn't a fickle vote.

And for those who, for reasons better known to themselves, are "undecided," Michelle Obama gave us an insight into the man who is placing his trust in the American voter, as we placed our trust in him almost four years ago:
"Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. And he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.

And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.

So when people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago."
Modern political conventions are more than simply showcase infomercials for political parties seeking electoral office. They are rich allegories of who we are as a people, as a culture, and as dreamers with an aspirational national identity. They are also a re-affirmation that government of, for, and by the people isn't simply a threatened slogan, but a teachable moment for each party to offer its governing philosophy. Republicans have offered a bleak, mysoginistic, anti-Middle Class, bellicose platform which has little to do with small, non-intrusive government, given an unlimited Pentagon budget for the next round of endless wars, deficit-busting tax cuts for Mitt Romney and his cohorts, shredding our social safety net to partially fund welfare for the rich, and a sick obsession with ruling women's bodies and healthcare choices.

Why any sane voter, even Republicans and so-called "independents," would find such an agenda appealing is a great and complex mystery attendant to one of the most ignorant and misinformed electorates in world history. In a perfectly sane world, however, what the Democrats have offered on a dazzling DNC opening night is a hands-down winner. The pro-government, forward-looking, progressive party just delivered a clinic to the hapless GOP alchemists on how to run a successful convention, and hence for discerning voters, how positive, results-oriented Democratic government will look like.

To embrace and celebrate our diversity, united in purpose but never in lockstep, was a beautiful, awesome thing to behold. Well done, Democrats. Keep your Mojo rolling!

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