COLUMBIA — Today’s political conventions have a singular purpose: To rally the troops around the candidates using Anthony Robbins and Dale Carnegie motivational style bluster.
Last week I took on the Republican National Convention. Some said my column was biased; others said not so much. I did, however, promise a fair assessment of the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C. Here I am of two minds.
First, the speeches. The Democrats showcased some of the best speeches in the two weeks of partisan repetitive philippic rhetoric (political B.S.). By the number of tweets during the speeches, Michelle Obama was the clear winner. Former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama took second and third. No one remembers Vice President Joe Biden.
Not all Democrats are great speakers, mind you. Case in point was Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal. This is a man not destined for public office. Technically, his speech barely made a passing grade. It was more a commercial for Costco than a motivational speech for the president’s re-election.
The rousing motivational style of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, which was not equaled by GOP speakers, exemplified the “get out there and vote NOW” attitude.
Yes, the Democratic speeches were as hard on and unfair to the Republicans as the GOP speeches were hard on and unfair to the Democrats. The big news was, though, that the speeches in Charlotte received higher marks by PolitiFact. Forty-two percent of Romney’s statements fell into the “false” side of PolitiFact's ratings, while Obama’s was at 28 percent. Even Joe “get my foot outta my mouth” Biden had only 33 percent of his speech fall on the false side of the meter. But getting 28 percent wrong is still pretty bad.
One of the prevalent errors in Obama’s speech was claiming that Romney himself advocates making all abortions illegal, even for incest and rape. This is not so. This is vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s position and the position of the GOP platform. Romney has repeated the same answer each time the subject is broached, abortion is bad, but an exception for incest and rape is good.
The president’s plans were not as vague as Romney’s, but they did not have much substance either. Obama’s deficit reduction plan is as much hocus-pocus as Romney channeling George H.W. Bush's pledge of no new taxes on the middle class.
At least Obama tried a bit of logic to save $4.1 trillion. End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the U.S. has borrowed the money for the wars since the beginning and no money has been found to reduce anything. So, it's a bit of smoke and mirrors.
Both Obama and Biden selected their quotes as strategically as did Romney and Ryan, but they seemed to have mastered the art a bit better. The GOP's focus was not as tight.
Second was the very public kowtowing to the religious right.
It seems that both political parties have forgotten that 9 percent to 16 percent of voting Americans declare themselves as nontheists, secular humanists, atheists or agnostics or just question their own faith. When former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland asked to put God and Jerusalem into the Democratic platform, many of these voters felt abandoned by both parties.
Worse still was the fiasco of declaring the voice vote a winner when the amendment came to the floor. Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa called for three rounds of voting. In the YouTube video, it is easy to see that the motion did not receive the two-thirds required votes to pass. After seeking help, clarification and direction, Villaraigosa passed the amendment anyway.
Of all of the errors made at both conventions, this was by far the most heinous of them all.
No one at the convention challenged the results. If there was a challenge, it appears it was not reported. The lesson was simple: The Democratic Party did not side with the voice of their people but to a small minority of the challenging party.
One thing is clear. In Missouri, the presidential race will be a photo finish, a true swing state. I am waiting for either candidate to recognize that silly little fact. The Show-Me State must show the world the yet unrecognized importance of the middle of Middle America’s votes on Nov. 6.