Contrasts between the conventions

By WND Staff

The Democratic and Republican conventions this year are as different as night and day, and the dissimilarities tell us a great deal about the condition of the two parties.

When the Democrats met in Boston, they were in about as sorry a plight as a major political party can be. They didn’t control the White House, Senate, House of Representatives, or the governorships of such major states as California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Florida (or even the mayoralty of New York City). Moreover, they were convinced (with reason) that the chief question in voters’ minds was which candidate could better wage the war on terrorism, and the polls at the time all showed George W. Bush with a roughly 20-point lead on that issue.

So they nominated a Vietnam war hero, devoted the whole convention to telling the great story of his four months there, decorated the platform with generals and admirals, required almost every sentence in every speech to include the word “strong” or “strength,” and had Kerry begin his acceptance speech with a salute and the words “Reporting for duty.”

Meanwhile, across the nation, the Hollywood crowd and the liberal intelligentsia whipped themselves into a Bush-hating frenzy unlike anything hitherto seen in our national politics. On one recent Sunday, no less than six of the 15 books on The New York Times best-seller list consisted of diatribes against Bush. If this sort of thing can be maintained until Election Day, we will find out whether sheer hysteria is capable of stampeding the American people into electing Kerry.

Now the Republicans have gathered in New York to renominate the president, and the contrast in moods is vivid. The GOP is fat and happy. To be sure, it has its problems. The economy is on an upswing, but not the kind that attracts much voter attention. Bush’s chief argument for invading Iraq – its supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction – has proved mistaken, and although it was a mistake literally everybody made, Bush is inevitably damaged by it. Moreover, the post-war pacification of Iraq has gone (to put it gently) badly, and once again Bush is being blamed.

As luck would have it, however, it appears that the Democrats’ decision to turn their whole convention into a celebration of Kerry’s Vietnam record was not the sure-fire winner that the Democratic strategists thought it was. The weeks between the conventions were dominated by an ugly brawl in which 254 Vietnam veterans managed to raise serious questions about just how heroic John Kerry was, and, worse, how thoroughly he bad-mouthed his fellow veterans when he got back home and turned against the war. The polls have reported a serious dip in Kerry’s support as a result.

It remains to be seen how adroitly the Republicans manage their own convention and whether they will contrive to put a better face on it than the Democrats did on theirs.

Certainly, they will make sure that the president has the advantage in the contest over who will make the best commander in chief. But, since the Democrats spent almost their entire convention trying to win that argument, and soft-pedaled virtually every other issue, the Republicans stand to benefit by stressing other issues as well and depicting Bush as having a long agenda of domestic improvements and reforms that he plans to implement in his second term.

Still, the election is surely, as the saying goes, “too close to call.” And in those circumstances, the forthcoming debates between the candidates are bound to have a powerful impact on the result. Intervening events – are you there, Osama? – may also play a crucial role.

Voters are in for quite an autumn.