A snarky review
A lot has gone down since the Democratic National Convention wrapped up last week, so I assume most of you have forgotten that it even happened. To be fair, I almost did. It’s just that these things aren’t what they were even 20 years ago, when there was actually a chance that something crazy could go down, at either one: Michael Dukakis’ skin sloughing off to reveal the lizard face beneath; the letters of Spiro Agnew’s name rearranging themselves by sheer force of will on every banner to spell “grow a penis” (seriously, try it, I’m not making that one up); Ronald Reagan being Raptured.
Credit where it’s due, the GOP did bring the crazy this year: Paul Ryan showed for the umpteenth time that he doesn’t understand how math works, Rick Santorum exhibited a hand fetish and Clint Eastwood spontaneously developed Alzheimer’s in front of America. And I should be happy about it; for left-leaning columnists with an attitude problem, this is known as “Christmas.”
But I have too many mixed feelings about how the DNC went down to really bask in the hateful glow of what unfolded in Tampa. There were simply too many varying implications and messages that took place during the proceedings in Charlotte, and what came about as a result of that is a bungled vision. All in all, I came away from everything feeling pretty good because, no matter how you slice it, I’ll take Obama’s enduring optimism and faith in his country over the GOP’s sensationalist, apocalyptic worldview any day of the week. I also, however, do understand where the disillusionment comes from.
There were high points aplenty, but it could have been better. A lot better. So, in tribute to an iconic actor, brilliant filmmaker and shell of former greatness, here’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Democratic National Convention.
The Good: Julian Castro
In several ways, it was actually a stroke of strategic genius for the Democrats to tap Castro as their keynote speaker. Besides appealing to the all-important and expanding Latino demographic — not that they need to put in the extra effort; Romney’s idea of benefitting Latinos is to lower the voltage on the border fence — there are a couple of direct parallels drawn here between Castro and President Obama.
1. They’re relatively young, at least in terms of political careers. When Obama was tapped to deliver the keynote address at the 2004 DNC, he was only 43, and still paying off Harvard law school loans. He too delivered an incisive, prescient speech regarding the state of the nation; he too was plucked from relative obscurity.
2. They each represent the future. Make no mistake: Castro is here to stay. And while that sentence is giving many of your grandfathers retroactive panic attacks right now, it’s true. He delivered a speech that summed up what pretty much everyone, including most high-profile Republicans, think of Romney: that he’s probably a pretty decent guy, that you’d have a great time at a wine bar or even a barbecue with the guy, but that he’s so out of touch with the average low-to-middle-class American, he’s essentially unelectable. I can’t say this any better than Castro, so I’ll just reprint the choicest quote of his speech:
“Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it. A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. ‘Start a business,’ he said. But how? ‘Borrow money if you have to from your parents,’ he told them. Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”
3. It’s a little petty, but c’mon: Obama? Castro? Democrats are proving a point here: we can throw progressive liberals with vaguely threatening names into the mix and still win elections. Mark my words — in 2016, the left will be running Castro against a redneck named Jeb.
The Bad: Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s Closing Prayer
I have no pithy introduction for this one. There’s no good explanation for it, and I haven’t the foggiest freaking idea who thought this was a good move.
I’m not referring to the prayer, or more specifically, prayer in general. Look, I have majors issues with the hypocrisies inherent in the way many modern Christians live their lives and what it actually says in the Bible, but there’s nothing wrong with prayer, nothing wrong with faith. Even for nonbelievers, or struggling believers, it has the potential to be a calming, introspective factor — at the very least, a reminder that we all should be fighting for something greater than the sum of ourselves. Let me remind you: we are insignificant less-than-nothings in the context of our universe, and it really helps stave off the existential crises if we have something to fight for.
But this was inexcusable. Dolan, head of U.S. bishops since 2010, has exhibited a sustained position of virulent homophobia and bigotry. He has, in turn, done the following: lambasted President Obama for supporting same-sex marriage; thrown a hissy fit to demand that all businesses be granted the right to deny basic healthcare coverage — in terms of contraception — to female employees; tried to force all Catholic sisters and nuns to abandon their work ministering to the poor and infirm, and instead focus on battling same-sex marriage. All of this, at a point in our nation’s history when over half of the country — a monumental percentage in polling terms — is in favor of same-sex marriage.
In the prayer itself, Dolan called for “those waiting to be born [to be] welcome and protected,” and for those in attendance to “seek the courage to defend life.” Furthermore, there was an overt dig at homosexuality: “Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Empower us with Your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions You’ve given us for the nurturing of life and community.”
Really? Really?! This is unabashed, ignorant, hateful and at best thinly veiled far-right propaganda. Even worse, Dolan wraps the whole thing up in just-vague-enough Biblical language — who can be against “life” or “the nurturing of life and community?” — so that it passes for moral diplomacy. It’s not. It runs counter to the all-inclusive tenets of our society, and to basic human decency.
In short, the Democrats gave a many-times-proven bigot a national stage to utter hate speech. Disappointment and rage do not do this justice.
The Ugly: Politics as Usual
As with any party that hopes to present a clear, focused message — something at which both the Democrats and Republicans have failed this week to varying degrees — there’s going to be some shady backroom dealing and legal sleight of hand to see that message through. Republican lawmakers in Washington glossed over a loophole that would have seen Mitt Romney’s name stricken from that state’s ballot, and the party also went to great lengths to ensure that none of Ron Paul’s delegates saw the RNC floor.
I’d like to pretend the Democrats are above this. However, this year’s convention saw Rep. Randall Terry, a former Republican and staunchly pro-life politician, refuse his seven delegates because of a marginal law mandating the reporting of all delegates to the state branch of party — in this case, Oklahoma. The delegates were, thusly, rendered null and void. Seven is maybe a large drop in the bucket, but still.
But the real forehead-slapping moment came when the party, in full damage-control mode, “voted” to reinstate language that asserted Jerusalem as the true capital of the Jewish state. They’d come under fire from right-wing pundits — to be fair, who could’ve seen that one coming? — for not reaffirming that tenet, and so had to officially vote to reinsert it.
The problem was, the delegates weren’t buying into it. The vote was conducted orally, by expression of “yay” or “no.” Anyone listening could hear that the votes were relatively close; if anything, the “no” vote was winning out. In the end, though, they kept re-trying the vote till they finally threw up their hands and declared the result they wanted in the first place… which had been on the teleprompter the whole time, no less.
So yes, I’m putting my faith in a group of people too spineless to not give in to loud-mouthed bullies and too lazy to change the text on the teleprompter. But the right is throwing their weight behind a man who recently changed his stance on healthcare four times in one 24-hour period.
I like my chances.
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