When Did the Democrats Get So Good at Political Stagecraft?

When did the Democrats become the new Republicans?

The opening night of the Democratic convention in Charlotte was a textbook case in message control and speeches that alternately tugged at the heartstrings and slammed the opposition for being out of touch with ordinary families. That sort of coordinated, regimented, always-on-target messaging used to be the bread and butter of the GOP, while the Democrats were the party that couldn’t get its  act together.

But Tuesday night for the Democrats was a well-orchestrated kick off that highlighted the mixed messages that came out of the Republican convention last week.

The Dems had two major themes last night: Their party (and Barack Obama in particular) understands the plight of American families. As Michelle Obama put it in a very effective pitch for staying in the White House, “As President, all you have to guide you are your values and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.” She and her husband know what it’s like to grow up trying to improve your lot in life. Unspoken, but mightily implied, was the contrast to Mitt Romney—who tried to connect to the masses by talking about his mother’s run for U.S. Senate.

The First Lady capped an evening in which Democrats seemed to do the near impossible–at least for the short term: reawaken the party base and the rest of the country to the vision Obama presented of change in 2008. After a contentious and dispiriting three-and-a-half-year battle in Washington, many Democrats are disillusioned with Obama or, at least, disinclined to put the same energy into his reelection as they did into his campaign four years ago. But you’d be hard put to tell that after Tuesday night’s theatrics were done. The party wasn’t on the defensive about Obama’s achievements, but instead presented him as the only hope for middle America.

The result, claimed Politico, was a base “reacting with an energy that was often absent from the Republican conclave in Florida.”

Michelle was the Mom-in-Chief last night, leaving other speakers to take aim at the Republicans: With amazing consistency, a range of speakers hit the GOP for running on discredited policies from the Bush era that protect the rich.

In particular, they targeted Romney as being clueless: “Their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed,” San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro told the delegates. “The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price. Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it.”

Compare Castro’s address to Chris Christie’s hymn to his own greatness and you can see the difference between a party that is mobilized and confident and a party that doesn’t act like it believes it can win.

The other noteworthy thing about the Democratic Convention: The speakers weren’t their usual scared selves around social issues. The platform included strong language on marriage equality, but more to the point, several of the speakers spoke about the party conversion on the road to Charlotte, including Michelle Obama who put marriage equality in a line of American progress that began with the War of Independence: “If proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love, then surely, surely, we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.”

Clearly, the party sees its embrace of equality as a potential motivator for the young voters it needs to turn out on Election Day.

Now political conventions are largely informercials and probably have no lasting effect on the election. When was the last time you heard anyone say that his or her mind was made up because of a convention speech? But the conventions are windows into the psyches of the parties, and at least for the first night, the Democrats are looking pretty well adjusted compared to the competition.

Photo: Christopher Dilts/Obama for America

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  • jeff4justice

    I think same-sex couples should be allowed to divorce the 2party system that preys on people’s fears to keep them devoted to a system of lie-based wars, poverty, and erosion of civil liberties.

    If LGBTs can attain equality more and more so rapidly despite being such a small part of the population then clearly the people power exists to back and elect alternative party options who are pro-peace,
    pro-American worker, and pro-civil liberties. Heck, we saw how fast people can mobilize over chicken.

    But LGBT media and LGBT mega groups need you to be stuck in fear to keep reading their blogs and donating to their six-figure salary executive directors.

    We LGBTs want the movable middle and our allies to be brave and support us. We want them to make hard choices about their faith and take the risk of being teased and alienated by LGBT-phobes.

    But do we dare have the same bravery about backing any of the alternative parties who support LGBT equality and have from the get go as opposed to evolving Obama? NO. LGBTs could not even support the 100% equality Democrat candidates Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel back in 2008.

    LGBTs have been reduced to cowardice by supporting Obama and his NDAA, continuation and expansion of wars, his horrific drone attacks, his allowing Monsanto to take over the FDA, his continuation of NSA total surveillance society, his support of no jury/no trail no fly lists, his support of the molesters at the TSA, his ignoring of the dangers of the radiation from Fukushima, his attacks on medical marijuana users, his cover up of Fast & Furious, his attacks on protestor’s rights, and on and on. You know, all the stuff LGBT media and LGBT mega groups ignore.

    I know LGBT media trains you to think you’re deciding between the Koch Bros. and George Soros but you’re not. You’re voting for freedom vs. the Federal Reserve, Goldman Sachs, Bill Gates & his pals at Monsanto, the Walton’s, the Rockefeller’s and other globalist eugenicists who want to play God and enclave people.

    Half the country is in poverty and die in poverty, most grads cannot find work, more and more jobs are shipped overseas, and unemployment is sky high. And your solution is to keep voting for the same 2party system over and over expecting different results.

    Go ahead and fly that rainbow flag made in the country of the nation your pathetic leaders have indebted you to. When you’re in the unemployment line or being drafted for the next lie-based war just remember you voted for the guy who said he likes gay people.

    Happy Pride!

  • jeff4justice

    Way to go LGBT media for brainwashing gays that drone attacks are cool so long as the President doing them supports equality. Hope you get a GLAAD award.

  • jwrappaport

    jeff4justice: You’re letting perfect be the enemy of good. Obama is not perfect, but he’s also not Romney. You speak of the ills of outsourcing and letting our students hang out to dry. I can’t remember the last time I heard a GOPer fight outsourcing or hold corporations accountable for their wrongs (let alone make their officers pay their fair share of taxes). You likewise speak of Obama’s wars, yet you should speak in the singular, as he got us out of Iraq.

    You speak of third parties as though they were a panacea for the ills and corruption of our system, and I would argue that every party, every person invested with enough power and money will likely be corrupted – it is not unique to the major parties, and given a choice between them, imperfect as they both are, I (and many other LGBTers) choose the dems because they don’t feel the need to demonize us and those we love. The dems also tend to favor more equal bargaining power between labor and management. They also tend to favor more progressive taxes and more environmental accountability too. Need I go on?

    In any event, most would not favor a third party because our system simply is not conducive to one. I would have supported Wes Clark or Kucinich, but given the expected value of a favorable return on my vote (which is to say its magnitude multiplied by the probability of its choice being vindicated on election day) weighed against the expected value of a GOP victory, I choose to support the imperfect on purely rational grounds: third parties don’t generally fare well at the voting booth.

  • tdx3fan

    Somewhere between 2004 and 2008 the Democrats stepped up their game.

    The funny thing is that middle class America (at least upper middle class America) is not suffering. The vast majority of them kept their jobs. The vast majority of them keep earning record profits. It was the lower middle class (made up mostly of production line jobs) that suffered. As it should be.

    The Upper Class and Upper Middle Class has quite a few people that were self-made because they worked hard all through school and then got jobs where they worked even harder to excel. While the lower middle class never really bothered to work hard and took jobs that were easy to find where the did not have to work hard.

    As far as production jobs go, it is not even like those jobs dried up. Those jobs just have much more strict requirements now. A job I know of, which paid around $21 an hour was more than willing to hire someone. That person declined the job. Why? Because it meant that he would have to give up smoking because the company had a strict anti-smoking policy. Seriously, turn down $21 an hour because you can’t give up smoking then whine about how the government has failed to give you a job. IT IS NOT UP TO THE GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE JOBS TO PEOPLE.

    America should not have to dumb itself down just so those that are not willing to put in the work to get ahead can get ahead easier. If that ever happens, you might as well just start a social welfare net (such as THREE years of unemployment) and wait for the country to go bankrupt or for the upper and upper middle classes to support everyone below them.

    @jeff4justice: You are a waste of time and stuck on stupid. Go ahead and vote third party, but when that person gets less than 1% of the vote just laugh about it. If that 1% of the vote would have caused Obama to win and Romney wins instead then CRY about it.

  • tdx3fan

    @jwrappaport: If workers want more bargaining power as compared to management maybe they should work harder and get promoted or go to college and become managers. Its not a hard concept. Or, they could form their own companies and be their own boss if their skills truly bring something to the table.

    Does the concept of more progressive taxes mean that those that work harder should get taxed more because that seems to be the presentation. The Democrats realistically want to tax those that make more than $250,000 (household) and $125,000 at a much higher rate than those that make $35,000 a year although most of those making $125,000 do so because they worked hard and were dedicated their ENTIRE life while those making $35,000 did not bother to apply themselves.

  • PTBoat

    tdx3fan, I don’t know what level of upper middle class you’re talking about, but lots of white collar people were heavily affected by the breakdown, which was caused by failed economic policies, deregulation, and criminal greed without oversight.

    I’m proud of our president and I am proud of the Democratic party for moving forward with an inclusive platform.

  • arjuna52

    Michelle Obama: “..and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with whom they love..”

    Julian Castro: “When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, “No.”

    Deval Patrick: “And today in Massachusetts, you can also marry whomever you love…We believe that freedom means keeping government out of our most private affairs, including..everybody’s decision about whom to marry…This is the president who ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” so that love of country, not love of another, determines fitness for military service.”

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