The Democrats go forth to war

By WND Staff

A national political convention used to serve the purposes of picking the party’s nominees for president and vice president and adopting a platform outlining its major policy proposals. Nowadays, however, all of these purposes are achieved far in advance of the convention. The convention itself has become simply a TV extravaganza, designed to introduce viewers to the nominees, stress the unity and enthusiasm of the party behind them, sound a few major themes, and send the party forth to battle.

So viewed, the Democratic convention in Boston was a classic of the new type, and the Republicans will be hard put to outdo it at their own forthcoming hullaballoo in New York.

Like bikinis and annual corporate reports, conventions are designed to reveal much that is interesting, while concealing everything that is vital. The Democrats know very well that Iraq and the war on terror are the topmost issues in voters’ minds this year, and that polls show that most Americans consider the Republican Party much tougher and abler at handling such grim matters. They also know that Northeastern liberals are, as a general rule, not terribly popular in the rest of the country, and that the issues dearest to the hearts of those who comprise the base of the Democratic Party – getting out of Iraq, gun control, abortion, gay marriage, etc. – are, at best, blazingly controversial and, at worst, downright counterproductive.

So they devoted hours of film, speeches, etc. to depicting the Northeastern liberal who is their presidential nominee as a bemedaled warrior with a heroic combat record in Vietnam. His subsequent two decades in the Senate, in which he earned the National Journal’s accolade as the most liberal member of that body, were glossed over as hardly worth mentioning. His voting record, which is a dismal list of votes against almost every aspect of military strength, let alone the CIA, wasn’t mentioned at all. One got the impression that John Kerry, having commanded a swift boat in Vietnam and saved the life of a comrade there, was now “reporting for duty” at the White House with scarcely any intervening record whatsoever.

And it must be said that Kerry lived up to that billing. He gave an excellent speech, blessedly free of the nasal braying that has characterized him on the stump, and he carefully avoided the pitfalls lurking in the aforementioned list of issues. Having voted (like his running mate, Sen. John Edwards) to authorize war with Iraq, he was in no position to call for bugging out, and he didn’t. He was, therefore, necessarily unclear as to what he would do differently than George W. Bush, but he denounced Bush anyway, and the delegates forgave him for the missing specifics.

So the Democrats left Boston in fine fettle, and why not? Their party is in poor shape, with little left to lose. The Republicans own the White House; they control both the House and the Senate; they have a narrow but usually sufficient grip on the Supreme Court; they have the governorships of the nation’s four largest states (not only Texas and Florida but New York and California); they also have the governorship of Massachusetts, from which both John Kerry and Ted Kennedy hail, and where the Democratic convention was held; and they even have the mayoralty of New York City, where the Republican convention will take place. One can forgive the Democrats for feeling they have nowhere to go but up.

In addition, the Republicans have serious problems of their own. True, everyone thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; but Bush was the one who acted decisively on that belief, so he is necessarily its chief victim. And while the dismal postwar scene in Iraq has more to do with the nature of terrorist warfare than any lack of planning on Bush’s part (not even the Israelis, who are no softies, have managed to end the intifada), the almost daily loss of additional American and Iraqi lives puts a heavy strain on everyone.

So the election is by no means in the bag – least of all for the GOP. Their convention, and the TV debates that will follow it during the campaign, as well as any events that occur before Election Day, will probably decide the outcome.