The Morning Jolt

Obama Makes His Anti-Trump Pitch . . . to Conservatives and Republicans

The two most extraordinary sections of President Obama’s convention speech last night:

Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward.

But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican — and it sure wasn’t conservative.

Every other Democrat in the country is pulling out all the stops to tie every Republican on the ballot in 2016 to Donald Trump and his toxic favorable/unfavorable numbers, and along comes the president of the United States, the preeminent foe of the conservative movement and GOP for the past eight years, to say, “Look, he doesn’t really speak for them.”

The second amazing part:

Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago; We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, We, the People, can form a more perfect union.

The Obama version skips over a few words; the actual Declaration of Independence declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But the point is that the Democrats — the Democrats! — are citing the Founding Fathers and the document of our national creation in their argument. This used to be the Republicans’ style. But since the GOP left it unused, the Democrats are picking it up and using it.

The most insufferable assertion from Obama’s speech came from the preceding one.

Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled.

Oh, really, Mr. “I have a phone and a pen”? Careful, years of Obama-messiah talk from his true believers are being sent down the memory hole.

You would hope that the experience of Obama would shake Americans of the bad habit of seeing presidential candidates as national saviors and messiah figures. Nope, we just traded in one for two others. Yes, even Hillary gets the “she inspires all of us” treatment in places like People magazine.

By the way, remember when I said that the Republican party’s embrace of an identity as the party of White Christians left a lot of potentially GOP African Americans, Latinos, and Asians feeing unwelcome? Notice a key part of Obama’s address last night:

Most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together — black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young and old; gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love.

Subtext: We see you, we recognize you, you’re part of us.

Tim Kaine, America’s Awkward Neighbor

Ever since the ecstatic reaction to the 17-minute “The Man from Hope,” at the 1992 Democratic convention, party organizers have created a mini-biopic for every major presidential and vice presidential nominee. Tim Kaine’s introductory video was short; that may reflect deft editing and an awareness of audience patience, or it may reflect that ultimately, there’s just not that much drama or a story to tell in Kaine’s life.

Kaine was born in Minnesota, grew in Kansas City, went to the University of Missouri undergrad and then on to Harvard Law School . . . because all of our leaders connect to the Ivy League, in one way or another. The video mentioned Kaine’s year as a Christian missionary — “they taught him Spanish,” the narrator declared, previewing what was to come in his speech — and then at age 36 he was elected to the Richmond City Council. After that, Kaine’s primary job was elected office in one form or another up until today: Mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor of Virginia, governor of Virginia, DNC chairman, U.S. senator. The narrator kept telling us that he was “an aggressive advocate” and “a leader in the Senate” and lots of other things that were surprising, considering how few Americans could name him until about a week ago. CNN found 48 percent of voters saying they haven’t heard of him or don’t know enough to have an opinion.

The one bit of drama in Kaine’s governing record was his response to the Virginia Tech shooting . . . a response that involved promoting gun-control laws. Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of those laws, Kaine’s 2005 gubernatorial campaign declared, “Tim Kaine strongly supports the Second Amendment. As the next Governor of Virginia, he will not propose any new gun laws . . . In Tim Kaine’s view, Project Exile and Juvenile Exile provide a powerful illustration of the right way to combat the problem of gun violence: crack down on the criminals who use guns instead of restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.” In other words, the biggest decision of Kaine’s governorship was to break a campaign promise.

As for Kaine’s speech, his introduction to the country helped explain why so few Americans noticed him during his four years in office or previous time as DNC chair or governor. There were two moments of life in an otherwise meandering and limp speech. Every time he spoke Spanish, the delegates in the room went nuts. (How many of those delegates understood what he was saying?) Kaine also unveiled the world’s least-impressive Donald Trump impression, repeating the words, “BELIEVE ME! BELIEVE ME!” about one octave lower than his usual voice. In some ways it was really funny, perhaps even charming, because it was so bad.

Having said all that, there’s something familiar about Kaine; by being so blandly affable, he may remind people of a suburban dad, a neighbor, the local Chamber of Commerce chairman. He looks like a Muppet version of an insurance claims adjuster, or the kind of actor who plays a nervous small town mayor, telling the local sheriff to ignore those stories about a giant shark offshore.

“Now, look, there’s no need to frighten people with all this talk of insecure servers!”

Maybe the electorate will like him; if they do, it will be a vague positive feeling: “Honey, what was that man’s name again? Tim? Tom?”

How Big a Factor Will Jill Stein Be This Year?

In 2000, Ralph Nader won almost 2.9 million votes, or 2.74 percent of the total national presidential vote. It was, by far, the most votes the Green Party ever received. Many Democrats believe those votes that helped ensure George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the United States.

Bernie Sanders won 13.1 million votes in the Democratic Primary. If just one-quarter of his primary voters choose to vote for Green Party nominee Jill Stein, she will surpass Nader’s record from the infamous recount year. And considering the close state of the polls right now . . . who knows? Maybe it could be a rerun of 2000.

Stein appeared in Philadelphia this week; she clearly sees the Democratic National Convention as a target-rich environment. Tuesday night she managed to get into the convention center and “led dozens of angry Sanders delegates in a walkout after Hillary Clinton officially became the nominee early Tuesday evening.” One frustrated Sanders delegate endorsed her in a television interview from the convention floor.

But some Bernie Sanders fans don’t want to see a 2000 rerun. One of the delegates who fought longest for Sanders — well after the handwriting was on the wall — was Norman Soloman, a Sanders delegate from California and head of the Bernie Delegates Network. He’s pretty strongly opposed to Stein.

“I do not personally support Green party presidential candidates,” he said during one of this week’s press conferences. “It’s a blind alley, it’s a dead end . . . I don’t understand the rationale for Jill Stein campaigning in swing states. I find that abhorrent.”

Like Jane Goodall Among the Primates, I Venture Forth Among the Protesters

Lessons from two days of attending Bernie-or-Bust and BlackLivesMatter protests . . .

  • There’s less of a smell than you might think. You smell pot quite a bit, of course.
  • By and large, the protests in Philadelphia around City Hall Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons didn’t feel like a powder-keg. A couple hundred cops stood watching a couple thousand protesters, yet the atmosphere didn’t feel confrontational. The cops were there to do a job, the protesters were there to have their say, and no one seemed particularly eager to escalate anything. (The protesters attempting to get over the security fence and burn some flags by the convention site Tuesday and Wednesday nights were a different story.)
  • If the stereotype of a lefty protest is a gathering of cute hippie chicks and scraggily-looking guys . . . well, that stereotype is there for a reason.
  • An observation to warm the heart of every conservative: These folks think the Democratic party is deeply corrupt. They’re not going to ease up just because some planks in the party platform are rewritten. Of course, there’s not quite perfect common ground with the conservative critique of the Democrats; the protesters are mad that they’re taking corporate money at all; we’re made that Solyndra executives donated $80,000 to Obama’s campaign and later received a federally-guaranteed a $535 million loan, and then went bankrupt, leaving taxpayers on the hook.

  • “We want our bedroom back”? Is this a renting out the Lincoln Bedroom reference? Good for you, historically-aware Bernie protester!

ADDENDA: This quick assessment is blowing up on Twitter:

1)There was nothing secret in HRC’s 30K deleted e-mails.

2)It’s a “national security issue” if Russia gets them.

Pick one, Hillary camp.

Recommended

The Latest