Why The Republican Convention Is Nearly A Complete Failure
There are two major goals to a political convention, especially when you’re the party out of power. One, use the “free” primetime coverage to introduce your candidate to America, getting them comfortable enough to vote for him or her in November. Two, break down your opponent, disqualifying them from even cursory consideration by the electorate.
It is sort of an odd development, considering that if you extract all the toxic, divisive politics and policy out of it, the Republicans were usually pretty good at this thing. In 2004, the GOP convention helped to echo the overall message of the right in that election: John Kerry was just not up to the job of protecting America. The hubris of the team on whose watch 9/11 happened and Bin Laden slipped away making this argument is besides the fact. They made this case, in carefully coordinated messages echoed by nearly every convention speaker.
By comparison, the Romney convention has been a muddled mess. It’s a lot like the Democratic Convention in 2004. Look at one of the major convention themes, a rebuttal of a truncated Obama quote. There is no cohesiveness, no single-minded message being pounded away at, no overarching narrative that is being replenished. Instead there is flailing, a Frankenstein-style “maybe this will work!” or “maybe this!” quality to the proceedings.
The writing was on the wall when Gov. Chris Christie delivered a limp noodle of a convention keynote. The Christie brand is attack dog, all the way down. He’s the kind of Republican that’s supposed to lead Democrats like me to stamp our feet and say “ooooooh, I hate that guy!”
Instead, Christie’s speech was a boilerplate, perfunctory defense of traditional Republican politics (with a little union bashing thrown in for good measure). The speech was well delivered, and would have been just right for a state party fundraiser or similar event. But this was the Republican convention. It was the kind of speech that should have taken a rhetorical 2 by 4 to the Obama presidency. It wasn’t.
The other major speeches, with the exception of Paul Ryan’s falsehood-filled acceptance speech, have been as effective as a bowl of mush. Whether it’s Santorum’s “hands”or Huckabee and Pawlenty’s dated Catskills humor, the Republican party and its nominee has been ill-served by his allies.
On the second plank, Romney is faring even worse. First of all, that they even see the need to “humanize” a man who has been running for President for about 5 years straight now is sad. But let’s take that at face value. Despite Ann Romney’s well delivered speech, the occasional assertions from speakers that Romney is just a swell guy don’t have any weight nor do they have a consistent narrative.
Again, other conventions for both parties have done a better job of this.
In 2004 and 2008, the conventions helped to sell the military biographies of John Kerry and John McCain, often through testimony of people who served at their sides. In 2000, while it had liberals like me reaching for the vomit bucket, the Republican convention pushed a consistent message of cuddly George W. Bush the compassionate conservative. After two full days of events and speakers, we hardly have a feel for Mitt Romney the man – other than his wife has a strange idea of what it means to actually struggle for a young couple.
Politics aside, Romney strikes me as a guy who really does care for his wife, children, and grandchildren with honest to goodness affection and love. But his party is doing him a disservice and not communicating that in their one shot to do so in a somewhat unopposed atmosphere.