What we learned from the conventionsBottom Highlights, Politically Aware Thursday, August 4th, 2016
Commentary: Politically Aware
The Republican and Democratic Party Conventions are now in the books. What did we learn?
Two Americas. In 2004, Sen. John Edwards described an America divided between the wealthy and those who lived paycheck to paycheck. In 2016, the choice is between Michelle Obama’s mutually supportive country struggling to become more perfect and Donald Trump’s dystopian landscape in need of an iron fist. The election could break on whether voters choose the America they aspire to, or the one they fear they are living in.
All in on suburban women. Democrats tried to reach out to a number of constituencies, including evangelicals, Bernie Bros and interventionalist Republicans. There were moments for “white working class” voters who feel they live in Trump’s dangerous world, but the overall Democratic message was to soccer and security moms, asking them to vote for a competent women who would make history over a temperamentally unfit demagogue. It may work, but it suggests the dreams of an anti-Trump landslide were replaced by hopes of a micro-targeted victory.
You’re gonna see kids. A lot. They figured prominently in Michelle Obama’s speech, Hillary’s “break the glass ceiling” video and ads asking if Trump’s statements were appropriate for children. Using children in politics is fraught with peril, but Democrats seem to believe it’s another way to make Trump unacceptable, particularly to the aforementioned suburban women.
And hear about people with disabilities. According to national reporting, the Trump video clip that gives voters the most pause is his mocking of a disabled reporter. Democrats would leverage that regardless, but it fits nicely into the “kinder Hillary” narrative. Sec. Clinton fought to make schools educate the disabled, something for which even Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, has praised her. If you didn’t see Anastasia Somoza’s speech, watch it.
Donald Trump wants LGBTQ votes. It’s just not clear his supporters do. Peter Thiel speaking as an out gay man and Trump offering to protect our community were both historic at the Republican National Convention. If you read Trump’s speech, he thanked the crowd for cheering. If you watch it, it seemed more like he was chiding them for not cheering enough. Regardless, offering to protect our community from foreign terrorists is not enough, especially when your running mate tried to legalize discrimination in Indiana. In San Diego, we know what Republican allies look like, and Mr. Trump, you are no Mayor Sanders. You are no Mayor Faulconer.
Republicans have hitched their wagons to Trump. By that I mean only those who will still be running for something, and even they used a thin rope and have their knives out. There are two former Republican presidents and three former nominees still living. Only 1996 nominee Sen. Bob Dole showed up at the Convention. Among the primary vanquished, Sen. Ted Cruz made an un-dorsement with his speech, and Sen. Marco Rubio checked in by video, demonstrating how to keep a safe distance from a potentially implosive candidate. Trump’s most vociferous supporters, Gov. Chris Christie and former Mayor Rudy Guiliani, are unlikely to have a government job unless Trump gives them one.
Michelle for mayor. After watching her mic drop speech, more than a few people wished Michelle Obama were running instead of Hillary Clinton. If the FLOTUS wants to take the political plunge, her first chance will be as mayor of Chicago in 2019. Incumbent Rahm Emanuel has problems with progressives and ties to President Obama as his former chief of staff. He would likely yield to a unifying campaign by Michelle Obama.
High hits can hurt. Our FLOTUS’s policy on bullying, “When they go low, we go high,” was one of the best lines of the Democratic Convention, but it created a challenge. How can Democrats attack Trump without stooping to his level? POTUS made it happen, by challenging Americans to demand a shared participation in governance that Trump would deny them. In other words, President Obama wrapped himself in Betsy Ross’ flag and used the hammer of justice to ring Trump’s Liberty Bell. No one, even Trump, argued that he violated Michelle’s rule, perhaps because she seems to be the only person Trump knows better than to attack on Twitter.
Surprise stars. Khizr and Ghazala Khan, who spoke of their son’s heroism, highlighted the importance of religious freedom, and stood up to Trump’s attacks in the ensuing week.
Best new phrase. “Moral defibrillator,” from Moral Mondays leader Rev. William Barber.
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