Denver — Many people have commented about the lack of any unifying theme at the Democratic convention. While that observation may hold true as far as conventional political narratives go, there has been one common thread that has run through the convention that is impossible to miss.
As Democrats tell it, America has become a cruel, jobless wasteland where every citizen is suffering. And only through the miracles of government, as performed by Barack Obama, can we as a nation be well again.
Far from uplifting, the Democratic convention has played out this week like some unholy mongrel of a PBS pledge drive and a Jerry Lewis telethon. Every single pol has a tale to spin about one or many sad-sack citizens, getting the shaft — courtesy of George W. Bush, and by extension, John McCain. If the convention had a theme it’s what Bill Clinton said Wednesday night, “The American dream is under siege.” That theme was also echoed by Joe Biden’s speech that evening. The vice-presidential nominee opined just an hour after Clinton that “the American dream is slipping away.” Biden then elaborated:
Almost every night, I take the train home to Wilmington, sometimes very late. As I look out the window at the homes we pass, I can almost hear what they’re talking about at the kitchen table after they put the kids to bed.
Like millions of Americans, they’re asking questions as profound as they are ordinary. Questions they never thought they would have to ask:
Should mom move in with us now that dad is gone? Fifty, 60, 70 dollars to fill up the car? Winter’s coming. How we gonna pay the heating bills? Another year and no raise? Did you hear the company may be cutting our health care? Now, we owe more on the house than it’s worth. How are we going to send the kids to college? How are we gonna be able to retire?
For anyone familiar with that particular train ride, that’s a vision so divorced from reality and fundamentally bleak one wonders whether Biden was plagiarizing Dickens.
Which is not to say everything is hunky-dory. America faces challenges — the energy and housing crises come to mind. However, the idea that a single president or a single party is responsible is naïve and dishonest. Of course, you can’t expect Democrats not to trash the Republicans at their convention. But you would expect Democrats to remember and offer praise for the millions of successful, entrepreneurial, hard working and even ordinary Americans. What’s good for those people should also be a consideration when determining the best policies.
But judging by the speeches this week, Democrats apparently don’t know any of these people. “I will always remember the single mom who had adopted two kids with autism, didn’t have health insurance and discovered she had cancer,” Hillary Clinton said in her speech. “But she greeted me with her bald head painted with my name on it and asked me to fight for health care.”
Whose heart won’t go out to such a person? But one woman’s tragic story simply isn’t an argument for universal health care. Or any other policy for that matter.
But that didn’t stop Democrats from whipping the pony carcass ad nauseam. Shortly before Obama’s speech, we heard from a slew of middle-Americans seemingly plucked from central casting who claimed they were voting for Obama — not because they believed in Obama, but because they were in some way personally afflicted.
First, we had Janet Monaco from Rockledge, Florida — “by way of Long Island.” “Fourteen years ago I moved to Florida to pursue my vision of the American dream. Within five years, I had bought a house and opened two pet stores. I was living well,” Monaco said. “Then disaster struck: back-to-back hurricanes, and rising costs of food and gas.” There goes George W. Bush destroying the American dream again. No doubt he was responsible for the hurricanes as well.
Following Monaco, the DNC gave us Pam from Pittsboro, North Carolina who announced, “Wait ‘til you hear what’s happened to me!” Wait, take a guess — Pam couldn’t afford health insurance.
Rounding out the parade of regional accents, was Barney Smith of Indiana who lost his factory job to outsourcing. “My country needs a person who needs Barney Smith, more than they need Smith Barney,” he said. Poor guy didn’t seem to realize he was being used by the campaign just for his name. (The campaign would have preferred to reach out to the Jewish demographic, but couldn’t find anyone named Sachs Goldman.)
Of course, Democrats can’t begin to articulate the means through which George W. Bush destroyed the American dream. “America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this,” Obama said in his convention-address variety-show spectacular. Surely, if the Bush years were truly that awful, Obama would be walking away with the election (We’ll just pretend that the Democratically led Congress’s approval rating is not actually far lower than George W. Bush’s.) However, Obama has yet to make the sale. So how do we explain this?
In the hour before Obama took the stage Thursday night, Al Gore offered the following explanation. “I believe this election is close today mainly because the forces of the status quo are desperately afraid of the change Barack Obama represents,” he said.
Who are these shadowy “forces of the status quo” and how are they to blame for our current predicament? How do Democratic politicians envision how this plays out in the typical American household?
Phone rings in average American home. Average American is seated at kitchen table staring gravely at the existential abyss that is his reflection in the window. He trips over a positively towering stack of unpaid bills as he gets up to answer phone.
CALLER: Hello, I’m calling from Gallup and we’re wondering which presidential candidate you’re planning on voting for in November.
AVERAGE AMERICAN: Well, I would like to vote for Obama — but the forces of the status quo have threatened to kill Lucy, our beloved Springer Spaniel. Frankly, getting rid of her would be a relief. It’s just an added expense, at a time when George Bush’s tax cuts mean the whole family has been reduced to eating dog food. There’s barely enough kibbles left over when we’re done to feed the dog. But my daughter has had Lucy since she was a puppy and well, I just couldn’t disappoint her.
CALLER: So, uh, you’re voting for McCain?
AVERAGE AMERICAN: So . . . very . . . hungry…
CALLER: Sir, are you ok? Tell you what, I’ll put you down as undecided.
AVERAGE AMERICAN: NO! MCCAIN! PUT ME DOWN AS MCCAIN!
A gun shot rings out in the background. A child cries in the next room over.
AVERAGE AMERICAN: It’s okay sweetie — Lucy’s in a better place where there’s lots of chew toys and everyone is a Republican.
If Obama and the Democrats want to get elected by preaching “Hope,” that’s a noble political theme. However, the need to confront a few major national challenges does not mean they need to pretend the citizens of a prosperous country are suddenly 300 million Okies in the dustbowl, and the Democrats’ statist policies represent the saving grace of jobs in California. That’s not giving people hope, that’s patronizing.
– Mark Hemingway is an NRO staff reporter.