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Assessing the Conventions
Two weeks. Who won? Who lost?


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The speeches have been delivered and the nominees officially selected. Which party came out on top? Our experts weigh in on what the conventions mean for the election.

David French
Here’s the Democratic National Convention in one sentence: “Our base is bigger than your base.”

In the midst of a miserable recovery, the Obama campaign is betting that its electoral base is big enough to swamp conservatives, conservative-leaning independents, and true moderates. And it just might work. The Republican popular-vote percentage in four of the last five elections trailed that of the Democrats, and the Democrats’ targeted identity politics is driving an ever-higher percentage of minority voters — even minorities who would otherwise be sympathetic to conservative cultural values — ever deeper into the Democratic fold.

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After celebrating abortion so brazenly, after booing God and Jerusalem so loudly, and after embracing government so openly, the Democrats have left no doubt about where they stand. They are betting the election on the idea that America has changed, that it’s no longer center-right in any meaningful sense, and that it will act much like California — by doubling down to the left in the face of economic uncertainty and fiscal failure.

Every election cycle we hear the claim that this election is the “most important of our lifetime.” I don’t know if this election is the most important, but it may be the most defining. Are we still a center-right country? Are we still a people that celebrates success and rugged self-reliance? We’ll find out soon enough.

David French is senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice and co-founder of Evangelicals for Mitt.

Jim Geraghty
The conventions of 2016 are likely to look quite different from the ones of recent cycles. For starters, future conventions will probably be officially scheduled for three days, not four. There will be a lot of pressure to schedule them outside hurricane season, but the parties want the conventions as late as possible in order to generate momentum for the fall, and they fear voters won’t pay attention in midsummer, with vacations, the Olympics, and so on.

With the parties’ nominees selected through the primaries months ago, the original purpose of the convention — the official nomination process — is gone. For the past several decades, the conventions served as week-long commercials for each party. But now there’s a serious question about whether these events serve that goal well anymore.

The Romney “bump” from the convention was pretty minimal, and Obama’s bump probably will be as well. This has less to do with the quality of the conventions or their messaging than with the fact that a) America is highly polarized, so there are fewer voters remaining to be swayed by conventions, and b) very few undecided voters are watching.

Some of this can be blamed on the public’s increasingly adamant refusal to consume news programming in the absence of a crisis, but some of the blame also falls on the networks. The non-cable networks are down to an hour of scheduled coverage on only two successive nights. When a speaker runs past 11 p.m., some affiliates carry the speaker’s conclusion and some cut to their local news. Unlike C-SPAN, the cable networks have their pundits talk over a significant chunk of each night’s speakers. Why should the parties raise millions of dollars and expend the enormous effort of staging the convention when the coverage on Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN largely amounts to their regular programming of interviews and analysis — except from a different location, with the speakers and delegates utilized to furnish a dramatic backdrop?

For journalists, there’s great value in having everyone in each party, past and present, in one place for one week, and the parties are a lot of fun. But the conventions need a new purpose; they have been running on nostalgia since the 1980s. Perhaps they would make more sense if they were held almost immediately after the final presidential primary, a formal “coronation” that would require the nominee to make his running-mate selection earlier in the process.

Or they could just invite Clint Eastwood every year.

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.

 

Victor Davis Hanson
Over the last two weeks of campaigning and conventioning, the fault line that has emerged is that the Republicans are comfortable in their calls of reform and tough discipline to avoid insolvency, and are mostly on the same page. In contrast, the Democrats are not consistent or confident in their rhetoric, and are unwilling to explain how to pay for ever-expanding collective government (other than with calls to “tax the rich”) or how to reconcile a growing list of extremist positions. The price of gas, the deficit, the national debt, the unemployment rate, and falling family income are all unmentioned, but it is implied that all would be worse under Romney.

The results of being disingenuous are ubiquitous: Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz are caught in embarrassing lies; Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa must pretend that a clear 50–50 voice vote on restoring references to God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to the platform was really a 67–33 passing hyper-majority; no one in charge can quite explain how we are better off than we were four years ago; “rain” supposedly deprived thousands of hearing the presidential convention wrap-up; the president, who blocked new leasing on federal lands and canceled the Keystone pipeline, brags about increased oil and gas production that came despite rather than because of his efforts. The only unity and candor come in repugnant charges — the rich and selfish want to bring back Jim Crow, deport our future brain surgeons and Nobel-laureate DREAMers, and deprive brave young women of the means to buy rare and exorbitantly priced condoms.

So the American voter at least has a choice: vote in a new president to open up and grow the economy while cutting back the unsustainable rate of government growth, or assume that “they” have done horrible things to the Obama team and thus prevented the president from succeeding — and that Romney in charge would be even worse than the last bad four years.

 Victor Davis Hanson is author of The End of Spartaa novel about freedom.

 



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