The Conventions

Dems will attack Bush presidency and propose that their formula for change is the antidote [blog].

us special 2 224 (photo credit: )
us special 2 224
(photo credit: )
A exclusive blog Convention season is upon us, with the Democratic National Convention commencing this week in Denver and the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis the following week. This is the culmination of the primary season - when the delegates who were elected during the various primaries and caucuses get to cast their vote in nomination of their candidate. This year, as in most years past, the conventions will be lacking in surprise, having been scripted to excruciating detail in order for each party to present their most accomplished face before the general public in the hope of capturing the big prize - success in the November election. As someone who attended two Democratic National Conventions in the past, I had considered trying to attend this one as well, in the expectation that this year, the Convention would engage in some serious unrehearsed decision-making. The primary elections gave only the slimmest advantage to Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, with neither candidate having achieved an overall majority independent of the superdelegates. The exciting prospect of a contested Convention appeared possible, with the Convention open to either candidate - the better wheeler-dealer might take all. Alas, the cooler heads of the Democratic Party prevailed, stressing the need for a party united behind one candidate, and the superdelegates were inveigled into declaring their preferences early, thus securing the nomination for Obama long before the opening gavel. As such, the delegates attendant at the Conventions will not be real decision-makers who plan the future direction of their Party, but will instead be mere participants in a huge infomercial designed to show America why their party is the best. They will applaud on cue, wave the banners supplied to them on cue and generally demonstrate to anyone watching that their party is indeed the right one - the correct political choice and the more fun to be part of. For the Democrats, the one bit of drama that usually prevails, the last-minute revelation of the Vice-Presidential nominee, was sacrificed in favor of presenting a solid, confident team. To be sure, this was indeed a worthy trade-off. The excellent selection of Senator Joseph Biden, as an individual who in many respects complements Senator Obama, and thus presents a team that has experience, knowledge, ability and the energy needed to move America forward. With all that, are the Conventions worth watching? The answer is - for anyone concerned with the direction that America will take - a decided yes. The Conventions are an excellent insight into the thinking processes of the various parties. They are a direct view into what party mandarins think is important, or at least what they think the American people think is important, and the directions they believe the American people wish to take. Approximately 40% of the voting public is not affiliated with either party. Moreover, a significant percentage of voters nominally affiliated with a party are susceptible of persuasion to vote for the candidate of the rival party, if the message is right. This is a huge portion of the voters, and means, in essence, that the election is up for grabs. Both parties will be reaching out to this large group of voters in the political middle, and they will do so by trying to correctly guess what the voters truly care about and what measures will give the voters confidence that their candidate and their party have the right approach and the right direction. Looming over both conventions is the soon-ending presidency of George Bush. A key barometer will be how each of the parties relate to the Bush presidency. The Democrats will, of course, attack the Bush presidency and propose that their formula for change is a necessary antidote to the Bush mistakes. However, wholesale Bush-bashing could backfire. The 1988 Convention was replete with jokes made at Bush Sr.'s expense, but did not result in a Democratic victory. (I can't resist - they included such ripostes as: George Bush was born with a silver foot in his mouth. Or - George Bush was born on third base, and thought he had hit a triple.) Does the uncommitted voter truly despise all that George Bush Jr. stands for and has accomplished? The Democrats had better read the public right - separating the praiseworthy actions from the bad policies - if they are to earn the trust and the support of the undecided and the wavering. The Republicans, too, have their difficulties - how to promise continuation of the Republican policies of the past two administrations while promising change of those very policies. Too much fidelity to the past could lose the next election by disenchanting the undecided; too much change could lose the next election by disenchanting the party faithful. It is a difficult balance. With Bush's popularity at low ebb, the Democrats should have the advantage. But will they read the public right? Will they correctly divine the issues, or will they fumble the ball again, as they have done in the recent past. The Conventions will reveal what each party thinks the voters are thinking. The party that reads the voting public right can win it all. For any student of politics, the Conventions will make interesting watching. The writer is Counsel to Democrats Abroad Israel