Delayed Notes on the Democratic National Convention
Yeah, so I'm a bit behind. I watched everything delayed a few hours on C-SPAN. I love C-SPAN. The commentators know no one watches it for them, and they stay nicely out of the way, even when taking calls in between events. No snide remarks from Wolf Blitzer or Cokie Roberts, no condescending head shaking from George Stephanopoulos, no sneers from Brit Hume. Then they loop the tape over and over all night for your recording convenience.
In the same vein as my growing distaste for network punditry, I am also pretty disappointed with the general coverage from Slate. I really dislike the constant slicing and dicing of a speechmaker's charisma, this utterly factual reporting of the reporters' snide opinions, like Saletan sniping
at Christopher Heinz's introduction of his mother: "In the video preceding her speech, one of her sons praises her as "multifaceted" and "multidimensional." This is not the way ordinary people talk.
" Oh, really? Has Saletan done a systematic sociological and linguistic study of who "ordinary" people are, and exactly how they talk? No, he just thinks it's a good line, like Maureen Dowd's ridiculous column about Wesley Clarke's argyle sweater. I'm getting really tired of journalists harping on such ridiculous points.
The thing is, I don't mind such opinionating, especially when its funny, in small doses--and from my friends and "ordinary" people. If Saletan had his own little blog on the side, say, I'd either be amused or wouldn't read it. Saletan is trying to be Matthew Yglesias or Josh Marshall or Andrew Sullivan or even his own colleague, Mickey Kaus. (Actually, Yglesias does more policy analysis than Slate.) But Slate purposefully--and successfully--competes with outlets like the New York Times for the analysis gig, and I dislike such shallow writing in Slate as much as I dislike it in the Times. When I need to get a feel for the kinds of impressions a speech generated, I either want a systematic person-on-the-street type survey, or some nice conversation with my friends and surfing session through their blogs and their friends blogs. I want people like Saletan to tell me about things I can't see from the TV, and use the resources of their computer databases and years of political coverage to background me on the content of the speeches. What exactly
is up with veterans' health care? How many reservists are
looking at no insurance when they get back? What is
the average decrease in a reservist's family income when he or she is sent to war? That's the kind of writing I expect from Slate.
Rewind back to Tuesday night. Barak Obama. Wow. Like most people, I liked this bit
The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But Ive got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we dont like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States.
Ultracasual is on the money
, though I think 2012 might be a bit early, especially after seeing John Edwards last night. I don't mind taking conventions more seriously than most people, because I still see them for what they nominally are--a rally for the delegates on the floor, who will turn around, come home, and get out the vote. There's nothing wrong with ringing prose, and rhetoric isn't empty if it's backed up by sound policy and hard work. You need a pep talk once in a while. I think Hillary Clinton struck the right opening note: John Kerry is a serious man for serious times.
When the Republican party's mission could be plausibly stated as aiming always for small government, generally low taxation, and individual rights, the opposing Democratic side--progressive taxation, government solutions, and protecting our common environment--stood as a nice opposition in debate. Both sides could press their case, and achieve a policy that balanced their concerns. But starting with Buchanan's ' infamous 1992 RNC convention speech and moving forward, the Republicans have seized on cultural conservatism as their touchstone, and I feel it has wreaked havoc on our public conversation. More importantly, in these serious times, it is not relevant.
If you look at the way the two candidates have spent their lives, regardless of their angle on policy, John Kerry clearly emerges as the more competent and serious man. If you then factor in that the current president's policies are most strongly motivated by cultural attitudes that are at best divisive and at worst ridiculous, in a way that Obama's speech makes abundantly clear, and that Kerry's are motivated by the Democratic ideals like good healthcare and better education, and protecting environment--ideals that help everyone--
the contrast is stark indeed.