Saturday, September 8, 2012

The big contrast: inclusion

There are many contrasts between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

One that was very obvious at their conventions has to do with equal rights for all.   The Repubican party platform calls for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.  Can you imagine it?   They want to enshrine the banning of equal rights in the Constitution?  It's "We the People . . . unless you love the wrong person."

Of course it will not happen;  the Founding Fathers made it hard to amend on purpose.   Three-fourths of the states would have to ratify it -- when only 45% still oppose gay marriage and 53% support it.   And these polls were before President Obama and the Democratic convention endorsed it so strongly.

No, the GOP is safe in pandering to their extreme right wing for political gain on this.   They'll get credit for the lip service from their bigoted base, and then won't have to deal with because it won't gain the state support required.

In contrast, at the Democratic convention, speaker after speaker mentioned gay equality in a very positive way.  And always, without fail, there was a surge of applause from the audience.  Contrast that audience support with the audience that booed the mention of a gay soldier at one of the GOP primary debates.  It was not just the Democratic convention speakers who identified themselves as gay or lesbian, or the young man who had been invited to speak about being raised by two moms.

It was in the platform and proudly proclaimed by the big name speakers:   Michelle Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden, and the president himself, who we all know gave his leadership to end DADT, to support marriage equality, and to end DOMA.

That is what inclusion and a commitment to equality looks like;  that is what it feels like.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Congress and the convention ???

One thing that puzzled me about the Democratic Convention just completed last night with a stirring call for renewal by President Obama.

During the three nights of inspiring speeches, there was not one single mention (that I heard)  of the need to take back the House and keep control of the Senate.    Yes, Obama needs four more years;   but he equally needs a Congress that won't be simply obstructionistic, as this one has been.

Yes, a number of the speakers were identified as candidates for Congressional seats, and there were passing references to the Republicans' intransigence;  but as an overall goal for the election -- the subject was simply not addressed.

Or perhaps it was obliquely addressed in Obama's saying to the audience, "only you can bring about the change.   You are the ones who make it happen."   And was the "you" to be understood as speaking through their Congressional representatives?  Was it simply to be implied that you not only have to go out there and vote, and get others to vote for president -- but also to elect a Democratic Congress?   Why not say it?  It's very true.

Was it a tactical decision to avoid putting the blame on Congress, as if it would make Obama look powerless?  Or did they want not to alienate Congress?   I don't get it.   Of course, the first priority is re-electing President Obama;  but close behind is giving him a Congress to work with.


Jobs: Democrats do it better

Bill Clinton made a startling claim in his speech Wednesday night.   Comparing the effectiveness of Republican and Democratic policies that affect jobs, he cited these stats:
Since 1961, Republicans have held the White House for 28 years, Democrats for 24 years.

During those years, the score is:   Republicans 24 million jobs;  Democrats 42 million.
Turns out, that's true.   Bloomberg News reported this back in May.

The fact is that presidents cannot take credit for all of the new jobs created.  Many other factors are involved.   But that tends to balance out when you take a long range view such as this, and when the difference is a great as this, with four fewer years in which to do it.   At least, it should take a bit of wind out of Republican sails when they try to claim the better record on jobs.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

The best political convention speeches

For three nights, I have been amazed at the speeches and the delivery of speech after speech at this Democratic convention.

And tonight was every bit as inspiring, and the crowd was just as fired up -- or moreso -- as it was by Julian Castro, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bill Clinton.

Tonight it was John Kerry, Joe Biden -- and then Barack Obama.

I have run out of superlatives.   The hall was electric;  the crowd was on its feet cheering for most of Obama's speech.    "All fired up, ready to go !!"

The DNC put on a whale of a good show, beautifully orchestrated, superbly polished, emphasizing all the right values.   The production matched and echoed the content of the uniformly outstanding speakers and their messages.


That old Bill Clinton magic

Bill Clinton has a unique ability to connect with an audience.  They turn him on and he turns them on.   It is a wonder to behold !!     He is simply and profoundly masterful.

Clinton has that rare ability -- which is pure gold for a politician or a president -- to be both substantive and riveting at the same time, both wonky and folksy.   He can reduce complex issues to a simple explanation, like no one else, then wrap it in a touch of light-hearted humor and down-home drawl;  and he leaves the spellbound crowd with some memorable zinger lines to carry away with them.  Here are a few:

"If you look at the numbers, you know that employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend again, and a lot of housing prices are even beginning to pick up.  But too many people do not feel it yet. . . .  If you will renew the president's contract, you will feel it. You will feel it."
After a slight pause to let his fervor work into the crowd, he added:
Folks, whether the American people believe what I just told you or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know I believe it. With all my heart I believe it.”
In another riff about the Republican emphasis on individual responsibility, he said:
If you want a winner-take-all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket.  But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility -– a we're-all-in-this-together society -- you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”
Then talking about the Republican plans to cut taxes even further for the wealthy while cutting programs that benefit the middle class and make it possible for the poorer people to move into the middle class, he said the following:
"The Republicans want to double-down on trickle down."

"They talk about turning the economy around -- what they really want is to make a U-turn and go back to the past policies that got us into this mess."
He paraphrased the GOP message to voters as:
"We left him [Obama] a total mess, but he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in."
Then he hit at Paul Ryan for claiming that ObamaCare cuts $716 billion from Medicare, while Ryan's own plan calls for the exact same amount of cuts, the difference being that Obama cuts waste and excess payments to insurers and hospitals, while Ryan cuts benefits for seniors.   On top of the difference in who feels the $716 billion cuts, seniors or insurance companies, Clinton chided Ryan for:
"You gotta give him one thing. It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did."

Republican news analyst Alex Castellanos said on CNN:
"Tonight when everybody leaves, lock the door. You don't have to come back tomorrow. This convention is done. This will be the moment that probably re-elected Barack Obama."
He may be right.

There have already been some of the best speeches at this convention . . . ever.   From keynoter Julian Castro to first Lady Michelle Obama, to fighter for middle class consumer protection Elizabeth Warren, and now The Big Guy himself.    Can Obama give an equally stirring performance?   He is certainly capable of stem-winder type speeches.

And the crowd will be pumped and ready.   I almost feel sorry for the Republicans, because their efforts last week in Tampa were so paltry, their policies so unfriendly to all but the wealthy.  If their followers ever begin to realize what they're voting for, they're going to depart in droves.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Michelle !!!!

Michelle Obama knocked it out of the park tonight.   I expected her to be good, but she was spectacular !!!    One online headline called it "electrifying, dazzling."

I can't even begin to find words to describe it right now.   The most telling thing was to watch the faces of those listening, as the tv cameras panned over the audience listening to her.   Some were wiping away tears -- not because it was sad, but because she touched so many of their lives with her understanding and her experience.

But every face was rapt in deep engagement;  heads would be nodding in agreement with what she was saying.  And then of course there were cheers -- and a great standing, shouting ovation at the end.

I've read that she wrote the speech herself.   I would say it was as good -- and she was as affecting and just as rousing in her delivery -- as Barack was himself four years ago.

But that's not all.

Julian Castro, keynote speaker who preceded her at the podium, was every bit as good.   The same headline writer (HuffPost) called his speech "sensational."   No question:  as the 37 year old Hispanic mayor of San Antonio, he is going to be a future star of the Democratic party.   He did what Obama did with the same keynote opportunity at the 2004 convention.

And I could name a dozen more speakers, on this first night of the convention, who were better than my expectations:    Lilly Ledbetter, Rahm Emanuel, Tammy Duckworth, Kal Penn, Michelle's brother and Barack's sister, Ted Strickland.   There was not a clunker in the lot.

The whole evening so outshone what the GOP did last week, and the best of their speakers couldn't hold a candle even to the second tier tonight.   It was like a major league team outplaying a minor league one -- totally apart from the policy differences themselves.


Dems' Diversity preview

Republicans thought if they could put enough diversity on the stage (Condi Rice, Bobby Jindal, a Hispanic speaker, an Asian) that we wouldn't notice the lily-whiteness, the affluence, and the predominant maleness of the delegates in the hall.

But we did notice.

Now, here's what's coming up for the Democratic convention.   The convention manager is the Hispanic Los Angeles mayor,  Antonio Villaraigosa;  the keynote speaker is San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, another Hispanic, whose brother, Congressional candidate Joaquin Castro, will introduce him.

The Obama campaign's political director is a Latina, as is the president of the College Democrats.  Lilly Ledbetter, whose unequal pay treatment resulted in the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Obama's first official law signed, will be speaking.

The Chair of the Democratic National Committee is a Jewish woman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.  The DNC treasurer, Andrew Tobias, is gay and will be speaking.   The Democratic platform supports marriage equality and pro-choice on abortion rights.

Note their depth of involvement;  they are not just high profile celebrity speakers brought into lend color and gender diversity.  But the really important difference is in the delegate makeup:

     27% are African-American
     13% are Latino
     50% are women

Delegates will come from every walk of life:  rich, poor, black, white, Latino, Asian, Christians, Jews, Muslims, gays, lesbians."

And -- of course, the nominee is African-American.  

That's the way to do diversity.   Be diverse, don't just fake it with selected celebrity speakers.


Explaining Romney

The (moderate) conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat explained Romney's campaign stance.    Rather than being a flip-flopper with no policy positions, or a secret plan that he refuses to reveal, Douthat's says:
"Rather, it's more likely that the Republican nominee is behaving like an executive being considered for a C.E.O. job at a high-profile but mismanaged company.  He's trying to tell his job interviewers (both conservative and independent) roughly what they want to hear, while leaving enough flexibility to be able to do things his way once he sees what's actually under the company's hood. . . .

"[I]f you're looking for a best-case scenario for a Romney presidency, you have to hope that his Mr. Fix-It impulses will work out for the best -- and that rather than being a model of moderation or a paragon of purity, he'll be a president who tries and tries, and ultimately gets things right."
Yes, but is that different from saying he's a flip-flopping panderer?    He's asking us to trust him to do a good job without telling us what that would actually be, while actually contradicting many of his positions in the past.   So if we can't trust him to be consistent with policy, can we trust him when he says "trust me?"

A president is not just a manager.  He is a policy maker, an agenda setter, and hopefully some ideal combination of a wise visionary and a practical manager.

Romney is not that man, no matter how you spin his history and his rhetoric.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Parsing that Gallup poll

In my last post, a summary of the Gallup poll on the effect of the convention among Independent voters showed a slightly more favorable view of Romney after than before, but only slightly.   It was generally regarded as a very small effect (3%).  It will be interesting to see what effect Obama's convention has on the same group.

Now a longer report on the details of the poll is more interesting.

The overall bounce effect, including all voters:

     More likely to vote for Romney   40%
     Less likely  to vote for Romney   38%

Compared to other post-convention bounce polls, the 2% net positive is the lowest in the history of such polling.

Here's another significant fact:   The Democrats almost always get more of a bounce from their polls than do the Republicans.

Net bounce:         2012     2008     2004     2000    1996    average
     Republicans        2%      5%         3%      17%      11%       9.0%
     Democrats         tba     14%       14%      15%      15%     14.5%

And here is the really good news.
They are tied in the latest polls after the GOP convention.

And Obama's convention bounce is yet to come !!


Hopeful signs

Polls show Obama and Romney essentially tied in the popular vote.   So what are these hopeful signs?

1.  Romney has already had his convention and whatever bump in the polls he will get from that.   Obama's convention is yet to come.

2.  Yesterday's New York Times front page blurbed an inside article, "Hitting the Trail," with this juxtaposition:  "Mitt Romney met with crowds in Ohio and Florida.  President Obama was cheered in Colorado."

3.  Other news stories reported crowds of 1,000 to 3,000 for Romney.   Obama spoke to a crowd of 13,000 in Colorado.

4.  Statistical genius Nate Silver, who analyzes and evaluates groups of polls, says that Romney's convention bounce appears middling.  A Gallup poll released today said that 36% of Independent voters said the convention made them more likely to vote for Romney, while 33% said it made them less likely to do so.

5.  The same Nate Silver, who keeps a running estimate of their chances of winning, based on individual state polling and the resulting electoral vote estimates.   He gives Obama a 74.5% chance of winning the election.

6.  Obama is leading in all of the toss-up states except North Carolina;  but the leads are small and could reverse.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Beneath the surface of the GOP convention

Romney did not hit it out of the park.

Everyone except the most partisan loyalists seems to think that.   The convention concentrated on trying to humanize the man instead of talking policy.

Maureen Dowd got in some good lines about it in today's AJC in her column about their "masquerade ball."
"Republicans care deeply.  They really do. 

"They care deeply about making us think that they care deeply.  That's why they knocked themselves out producing a convention that was a colossal hoax."
She then talked about how full of diversity the speakers roster was and how many touching stories of immigrants with rags to riches stories there were, while we all know that the audience was mostly white and that Republicans prefer riches-to-riches stories.
"That's why my heart swells to think of the herculean effort the GOP put into pretending its heart bleeds . . ." and Romney's effort to "reach deep inside himself to give a speech in which he appeared genuine.  It was also remarkable to see that even when he looks genuine, he still seems fake. . . .

"In his speech . . . the altar boy [Ryan] altered reality, conjuring up a world so compassionate, so full of love-thy-neighbor kindness and small-town goodness, that you had to pinch yourself to remember it was a shimmering mirage, a beckoning pool of big, juicy lies. . . .  The convention was an unparalleled triumph of mythmaking . . .

"Ryan's harsh stances toward women, the old and the poor are on record, so he set a new standard for gall when he intoned, 'The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.'"
I think that pretty well sums it up.

Now let's see what the Democrats do with their turn this week.