If political conventions tell us anything beyond the predictable, the one held last week in Cleveland and the other going on this week in Philadelphia pose contrasts so stark that one wonders if the two groups hail from the same country. Hint: One of them didn’t present a diverse cross-section of America.
Whereas Cleveland’s arena was a relatively sparsely populated panorama of predominantly pale faces animated by anger, Philadelphia’s is a teeming, multicolored mass of (mostly) joyous celebration. In starkest contrast, Bernie Sanders, unlike Republican runner-up Ted Cruz, handed the baton and a passionate endorsement to his party’s nominee.
The Democratic convention managed to wrestle unity from the Sanders crowd while Republicans left their gathering as divided as ever. Not even the storied email scandal – the hacked Democratic National Committee files released on convention eve, not Clinton’s private server – muted the enthusiasm of delegates.
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On opening night, a series of speakers carefully culled from the trove of democratic demographics related personal stories that were lovely and touching, if at times it felt like a group therapy session. Then along came comedian Sarah Silverman, who broke the spell with a little reality therapy, telling the “Sanders or Bust” crowd, “You’re being ridiculous.”
Did she just say that?
This is what passes for scandal when banal DNC emails make one yearn for the days of gloved burglars with flashlights. Even speculation about Russian intelligence being behind the hack and trying to influence the outcome of the presidential election (really?) pales next to the flesh-and-blood drama of Watergate.
The Russian conspiracy theories, loosely posited by the Clinton campaign and others, go something like this:
Donald Trump has expressed admiration of Vladimir Putin. Trump has recently turned more pro-Russia, suggesting he wouldn’t interfere with Russian aggression if NATO members don’t pay a fair share for their defense. Oh, and Trump has refused to release tax returns. Might they reveal business associations with certain Russian parties?
Then, too, the hackers, who did not breach the Republican National Committee, according to the FBI, could just be messing around.
Either the Russians have no interest in what Republicans chat about or they don’t need to spy because (cue “Bourne Identity” soundtrack) Trump and Putin are already in constant contact. Actually, rumor has it that Trump’s hairdo conceals a chip that feeds his thoughts directly into a computer located in an underground silo in remotest Kamchatka, where analysts celebrate the coming New Russian Empire with shots of Trump Vodka.
But I digress.
After Silverman, who was paired with the formerly funny Sen. Al Franken, came a series of heavy hitters, including fellow Sens. Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Sanders with affirming and unifying messages. First lady Michelle Obama, who stole the show, was gracious as she serially insulted Trump without once mentioning his name – the ultimate putdown.
Contrast this to the direct, full-frontal, name-calling insult-a-thon that has been the Trump campaign. Even winning the nomination failed to improve his mood or personality. Winning has always been Trump’s endgame, so why wasn’t he happy?
By contrast, there’s no reason to imagine that the first woman ever to be nominated to the presidency will maintain a grim expression as Trump did following his nomination. He obviously made a decision to forgo the victor’s grin and instead bear the countenance of a general about to enter war. Happy warrior isn’t in his repertoire.
Whatever one’s political persuasion, objectively, the future belongs to the party that reflects the nation it aspires to lead. This would not be the party whose platform, though not binding, seeks to undo many of the rights – reproductive choice and same-sex marriage – that most Americans find acceptable.
The math simply doesn’t support a viable Republican Party without a long period of reconstruction following the Trump demolition. This is true if Trump wins or loses.
In the meantime, sentient Americans aren’t the only ones worried about what comes next. On Tuesday, I moderated a panel before an international audience hosted by National Democratic Institute. A woman from Africa summarized the sentiments of the larger group with her question. Noting that people around the world depend on the United States to be the shining light for all, she asked: Who is the best to provide the moral leadership of America?
The world awaits our answer.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.