What We Learned About The Parties From Their Conventions

Judged by their convention delegates, Democrats are multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-generational, multi-faith, multi-ethnic and multi-everything. The looked like America. The delegates appeared to be having a rocking good time, especially when former President Bill Clinton put on a show for the ages. They are the party that, when you were in college, you wish you were invited to.

On the other hand, Republicans are monochromatic, the party of white people, mostly older and mostly male. Their delegates looked they had to be there and appeared to be having no fun at all. The GOP is the party, when you were in college, you needed to be invited to in order to make contacts for later in life.

Last Roundup

The GOP is so far behind the shift in American demographics, an unnamed Republican strategist told Ron Brownstein of National Journal that this is “the last time anyone will try to run like this,” that is, without significant support from non-white Americans.

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, of Iowa, called the star of the Republican convention, Clint Eastwood, “the perfect icon of the Republican tea party: an angry old white man spewing incoherent nonsense.”

Bring Back Nostalgia

Two world views were on display at the conventions. One, that the Republicans embrace, is a deep sense of nostalgia, that we’ve lost our way and need to get back to what made our country great, even if those beliefs no longer apply to this world.

The best example is how the GOP sees climate change. Many Republicans insist that an Adam and Eve account of the dawn of humanity is just as valid as Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection; that there is enough coal, gas and oil to keep us going forever. Climate science? Just a matter of opinion.

Confidence For Sale

The Democrats’ world view embraces confidence, that no matter how bad things seem today, they will get better. In America, they say, we are always striving to improve and get over hard times, individually and as a nation. In contrast to the GOP, Democrats are worried that climate change is already happening, that the environment is in collapse all around us; that energy from above ground like wind, solar and tidal is where we must invest.

The Bernstein Difference

Another dichotomy between the parties is what economist Jared Bernstein identified and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama popularized. It’s the philosophical contrast between “We're all in this together” and “You're on you're own.” That was one of the core differences on display at the conventions.

It’s All About Trust

Ideas matter in presidential politics. But what the choice comes down to is this: Which of these two men do you trust to put America on the road to recovery? A successful businessman whom you don’t particularly like, who has made huge profits while investing in new or struggling businesses and eliminating jobs or shipping them overseas. Or, a president whom you like but don’t know if he can get us out of this economic rut.

Since voters are smart enough to know that neither man will jump start the economy immediately, the question before them is whom do you trust. I think Obama came across as easily more trustworthy.

This program aired on September 10, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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Dan Payne Democratic Political Analyst
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.



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