The Democratic National Convention

The Democratic National Convention got underway and on television yesterday in Charlotte, N.C.  I do intend to watch what I can, but I couldn’t tune in last night.  Could anyone report on what transpired?  What themes do you expect to see?  What arguments or what feelings will the Democrats use to keep Americans from concentrating on the usual determining issue, that it’s the economy, stupid?  Are you finding their appeals at least rhetorically effective?

From citizens to clients

George Will sums up Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic by Jay Cost, who argues “that the party has succumbed to ‘clientelism,’ the process of purchasing cohorts of voters with federal favors.”

Before Franklin Roosevelt, “liberal” described policies emphasizing liberty and individual rights. He, however, pioneered the politics of collective rights — of group entitlements. And his liberalism systematically developed policies not just to buy the allegiance of existing groups but to create groups that henceforth would be dependent on government.

Under FDR, liberalism became the politics of creating an electoral majority from a mosaic of client groups. Labor unions got special legal standing, farmers got crop supports, business people got tariff protection and other subsidies, the elderly got pensions, and so on and on.

Government no longer existed to protect natural rights but to confer special rights on favored cohorts. As Irving Kristol said, the New Deal preached not equal rights for all but equal privileges for all — for all, that is, who banded together to become wards of the government.

In the 1960s, public-employee unions were expanded to feast from quantitative liberalism (favors measured in quantities of money). And qualitative liberalism was born as environmentalists, feminists and others got government to regulate behavior in the service of social “diversity,” “meaningful” work, etc. Cost notes that with the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, a few government-approved minorities were given an entitlement to public offices: About 40 “majority-minority” congressional districts would henceforth be guaranteed to elect minority members.

Walter Mondale, conceding to Ronald Reagan after the 1984 election, listed the groups he thought government should assist: “the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the handicapped, the helpless and the sad.” Yes, the sad.

Republicans also practice clientelism, but with a (sometimes) uneasy conscience. Both parties have narrowed their appeals as they have broadened their search for clients to cosset.

via George Will: An election to call voters’ bluff – The Washington Post.

Romney’s big night

The Republican convention–after a bunch of testimonials from Olympic athletes, businesses saved by Bain Capital, and others about what a good person Mitt Romney is–wrapped up with rambling musings by Clint Eastwood, an impressive speech by Marco Rubio, and then the presidential candidate’s acceptance speech.

What are your thoughts on the last night of the convention and especially Romney’s speech?  Do you think the convention succeeded in its stated goal of introducing Mitt Romney to the American people?  And of humanizing him?  Will the convention prove to be a successful infomercial for the Republican party?

Next week, starting Tuesday, will be the Democrats’ turn.  I hear it will be a veritable abortion-fest.  Expect to hear from a college student at a Catholic colleges whining for her right to free birth control, from teacher union leaders praising our public schools, from in-your-face gay activists, from Obamacare fans, and from would-be comedians mocking conservatives, moderates, creationists, gun-owners, and the general public in general.  Democrats, especially when they play to their base, sometimes over-reach.  They think they are populist, but they are not, and they may come across in ways they do not intend, putting off more voters than they attract.  But we’ll see.

Convention or conventional?

After my cataract surgery, I was told that reading might be hard, but that I should be able watch TV.  As if that was supposed to make me feel better!  So while convalescing I caught up on Netflix and then finally slipped back into my long-held tradition (or is it betrayal) of watching the political conventions.  (My custom, engrained into me from childhood, is that I should watch both of them.)  So last night I tuned into the GOP speeches.

Quick review, because I can’t see very well to type:  The speech by Ohio’s Rob Portman was not very good–he would have been a disaster as the vice presidential candidate, as he was widely expected to be.  Mike Huckabee did well.  Then Condoleeza Rice gave an outstanding seminar on our foreign policy woes.  Followed by New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, the Hispanic woman who acquitted herself well as a rising star in the Republican party.  Finally, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan gave an outstanding speech, showing strong promise as a campaigner, as well as an intellectual bright light.  (The vice presidential debate between him and Joe Biden should be especially fun.)

Are any of the rest of you watching the convention?  Or do you have to be laid up from an operation to do so?  What observations do you have?

Rudy Giuliani has said that Republicans have a better and deeper “bench” than the Democrats do.  Do you agree?  Who are the upcoming potential stars?   This will be a good thing to watch for in the Democratic convention also.  Who are the upcoming Democratic stars?  Are they centrists, leftists, or do they  have some new ideas?

Party squelches pro-life Democrats

Washington Post columnist Melinda Henneberger on pro-life Democrats trying to get a hearing at the platform committee but getting shot down.  She comes up with an interesting parallel, that abortion is to Democrats what gun rights are to Republicans, an untouchable issue that allows for no compromise:

Democratic dissenters on the issue of abortion have made their case to the platform committee, arguing that the party should change its language enough to allow for some diversity of opinion on the matter and return to the “big tent” approach of the Clinton years.

The effort is probably doomed; NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan is on the committee, and those pushing for the change were happy just to get to testify; they weren’t even allowed to do that four years ago.

This time around, Janet Robert, who founded Minnesota’s progressive talk radio station AM 950, with talkers such as Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann, was given seven minutes to make the case, and she used it to argue that the party simply cannot win back Congress without Democrats who differ from the ’08 platform on this one issue. She cited a slew of stats, including a Gallup poll from last year in which 44 percent of Democrats said abortion should only be legal “in a few circumstances.”

The plank they want to rewrite says the party “unequivocally” supports Roe v. Wade and spells out that “we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” .  . .

There’s no question that Democrats won the House in ’06 by running more moderate candidates in districts the party would otherwise have lost to Republicans.

But the abortion rights lobby writes big checks and wields such unlimited power that I’ve long thought abortion rights have become to the Democrats what the Second Amendment is to Republicans — who are so terrified of the “slippery slope” that even the most common-sense gun restrictions are out of the question. Nobody wants to buck the lobby with bucks.

via Democratic abortion foes push for change in platform – She The People – The Washington Post.

The last time Democrats won big, they courted social conservatives and ran some moderate candidates.  Another theme of this column is that Democrats aren’t going to do that this time.

Democrats claim to be the party of compassion and social justice, championing the marginalized and supporting the little guy.  I can’t take that seriously as long as they so uncritically support abortion.  What is so “liberal” about being for abortion?  Women’s rights?  But isn’t that more of a libertarian way of thinking, the sort of individualist mindset that leftists condemn when they see it in conservatives?  At any rate, I can respect pro-life liberals, when you can find them, as being generally consistent in their principles.  But pro-abortion liberals are sort of like those early Americans who believed passionately in freedom, despite their glaring inconsistency of also believing even more passionately in slavery.

To Bain, or not to Bain?

Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, is a rising star in the Democratic party.   He’s in trouble with Democrats now, though, for objecting to the Obama campaign’s attack on Mitt Romney’s old private-equity firm, Bain Capital.

Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, a close ally of President Obama in the upcoming election, slammed the president’s campaign Sunday for ads attacking Mitt Romney’s work for the private-equity firm Bain Capital.

Booker, who noted that many of his constituents are investors in or employees of New York-based financial firms, said it was wrong for the Obama campaign to portray the expected Republican nominee as someone who pursued profits by slashing jobs while serving as Bain’s chief executive.

“If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses,” Booker said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And this, to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.”

The mayor later released a YouTube video in which he tried to clarify his comments and emphasize his support for the president.

Booker’s remarks earlier Sunday were aimed at a television advertisement introduced by the Obama campaign last week that sharply criticized Romney’s record at Bain — a line of attack seen as central in an election whose outcome is expected to be shaped by voters’ economic concerns.

via Newark Mayor Cory Booker slams Obama campaign attack on Romney’s work for Bain Capital – The Washington Post.

Bain would buy up troubled companies and either get them up and running again or sell off their assets.  Jobs were sometimes created and sometimes lost.  But dying companies are going to lose their jobs eventually anyway.  Still, it’s easy to portray companies in this line of work and their executives with vulture imagery and to bring out people who have lost their jobs in the corporate takeover and put them on TV, as the Obama ads have been doing.

Mayor Booker is rejecting the demagoguery, as well as recognizing that corporate tycoons are big contributors to Democratic coffers.  (Though now Booker has apparently been pressured to back off his criticism.)

Is portraying Romney as a corporate villain a winning or a losing issue for Democrats?  Or, conversely, is nominating a corporate executive in a bad economy with high unemployment a winning or losing issue for Republicans?


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