Friday, July 29, 2016

Ramblings on the 2016 Democratic National Convention

Here are some thoughts about the Democratic National Convention this week.  I rephrase and elaborate on notes I jotted down last night in preparation for this post.
  1. Sarah Silverman told "Bernie or Bust" people that they were being ridiculous.  That's not the way to win over Bernie supporters!  Plus, while I do not condone the trolling that many Bernie supporters have engaged in, they are not being ridiculous when they feel alienated from both parties, Republican and Democratic. 
  2. Bernie was mentioned by Jesse Jackson, Tim Kaine, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.  I wish more speakers had acknowledged Bernie, considering the movement that he started.  But that's how it is in most conventions: to the victor goes the spoils!  Still, I appreciate the speakers who did acknowledge Bernie.
  3. There were some protests.  It was raucous on the first night.  On Day 3, there were chants of protest when Admiral John Hutson and Leon Panetta spoke.  Chanters were saying "Let her in" and "Trump," and I do not know why.  Were they supporting Trump's call for Russia to hack Hillary's e-mail?  The chants against Panetta were anti-war and anti-drone.  The camera was not always on the crowd, and that somewhat obscured the presence of protesters for those watching the convention on TV, especially since many of the speakers just kept on speaking despite the protesters, and there were plenty of people in the audience who drowned the protesters out.  The camera was occasionally on the audience, and sometimes there were a lot of anti-TPP signs and anti-war signs, and sometimes not.  Plus, there were Bernie supporters who walked out, and that may account for times when the convention was calmer.  The convention was not as unruly as the 1968 one, and it was usually like a normal convention. 
  4. Hillary talked about how she was bullied when she was a kid and ran into the house, and her mom made her go back outside.  This reminded me of a 2002 movie that I saw recently, Tomorrow Man.  An abusive father made his son go outside to fight the bullies, even though they were bigger.  At the end of the movie, after the father has learned the error of his ways, he no longer makes his son go outside to confront the bullies.  Both Hillary's mom and that dad on that movie probably had the same rationale for their position: you can't let bullies walk all over you, otherwise people will bully you for the rest of your life.  Is that approach right or wrong?
  5. There were appeals to independents and Republicans.  Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who went from being a Republican to being an independent, appealed to the independents who were watching the Democratic convention from home, and he said where he disagreed with Republicans and Democrats.  Hillary Clinton praised not only Tim Kaine's son for serving in the military, but also Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence's son for doing the same.  I respected Hillary for doing that.  Some have argued that the positive emphasis on God, country, and the military at the Democratic Convention this year was designed to appeal to Republican voters.  I am not so cynical.  I think that Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, and Barack Obama are sincere in their faith convictions.  Plus, it is not surprising for African-American ministers to talk about God at the Democratic National Convention. 
  6. Bill Clinton asked an intriguing question: How do you square his positive portrayal of his wife with what the Republicans said about her at the GOP convention?  Bill's answer is that his portrayal is true, whereas the GOP's portrayal is made-up.  How does one square the positive things we hear about people with the negative things?  A while back, I read a biography of George W. Bush by Ronald Kessler.  It was entitled A Matter of Character, and it was a positive portrayal, which contended that Bush was a decent man.  Amazon reviewers were wondering how to square that with Bush's alleged corruption and shenanigans, which are in negative biographies about the man.  Many say that we all have light and dark aspects of ourselves, and I know that is true of myself.  But I think of James 3:11 in the Bible: "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" (KJV).  What is the fundamental core and organizing principle in a person's life: good, or evil?  It cannot be both, can it? 
  7. Corey Booker was talking about how the Declaration of Independence encourages love, not tolerance.  He observed that the last line of the Declaration said that "we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."  Booker said that, when we merely tolerate people, we feel that we can do without them.  Love, however, is different.  That challenges me, since there are plenty of people I feel I can do without!  Yet, I would like for the country to run more on love: a positive concern for people's well-being. 
  8. Speakers at the Democratic convention presented Trump as a hypocrite.  Trump preaches against outsourcing while having some of his campaign material made in other countries.  Trump is against foreign workers coming to the United States and competing with Americans for work, yet, a speaker said, Trump himself has a history of hiring foreign workers.  A speaker also said that Trump fired workers who were taking time off to serve in the military overseas.  Trump said at his own convention that he knows the system, so he alone can fix it.  My question is: Can we be assured that he genuinely wants to fix it, when he has a history profiting off of it?  The same question can be asked about Hillary.  Robert Reich, in response to this article, posted this week about the trade-offs and rewards for big donors that have occurred at the Democratic convention this week.  Can we really trust Hillary to get money out of politics, in light of that?  Those are important questions, but perhaps a case can be made that Trump and Hillary will do the right thing, despite whatever shadiness exists in their pasts.  Accomplishing reforms would make them look good in the annals of history! 
  9. The GOP convention was rather one-sided in its discussion of the police issue: it defended the police, condemned criticism of the police, and said "blue lives matter," without much criticism of police misconduct, especially towards minorities.  The Democratic convention was more balanced on this.  It presented family members of people killed due to police misconduct, but also cops who were sensitive to this issue, and to the lives of cops. 
  10. I mostly watched the conventions on C-Span.  The Democratic convention appeared to have speakers on all day, whereas the Republican one did not.  That was probably because the Republican one this year was lucky to get whatever speakers it got!
  11. Whatever my political disagreements with him, I love Tim Kaine.  He's like a goofy TV dad, yet he is intelligent.  I loved his humble story, especially the part about how he and his family still live in the same house that he and his wife first moved into.  I also enjoyed his “Believe me” imitation of the Donald!
  12. There were stories about the goodness of America. I tend to recoil from the idea of American exceptionalism, and yet these stories tell me that the goodness of America is not just a cliché----there is bad in America, but also a lot of good.  I especially loved Hillary’s reference to Dallas police chief David Brown, who appealed to his community to join the police, and hundreds applied.   In my eyes, David Brown is a national hero.  He was just the right person to be in the limelight after the shootings in Dallas, with his background and the pain that he has personally experienced.  I think of Esther 4:14, which talks about how Esther was brought to prominence for such a time as this. 
  13. In watching the video that was about Joe Biden, I was reminded that Biden actually came out in support of gay marriage before President Obama did.  Biden did so on Meet the Press.   Biden is notorious for speaking his mind, even when it goes against what is deemed to be politically sensible.  That can lead to gaffes!  This time, though, many progressives were proud of Biden for speaking his mind and taking leadership.
  14. The Democratic convention struck me as more positive than the Republican one.  As was to be expected, there were criticisms of Donald Trump at the Democratic one, but they focused on his record.  The Republican convention, however, had jarring cries of "Lock her up!" in reference to Hillary Clinton. 
  15. More than one Democratic speaker criticized Trump's claim that he alone can fix the system.  Hillary and Obama said that it is up to all of us, not just one person, to make this country better.  And even many conservatives have criticized Trump for saying he alone can fix the system.  This is not surprising.  Conservatives have often said that we should look to the people, not the government, to solve the nation's problems.  They make an important point, but I wonder: Why can't both people and government address the country's problems?
  16. Actress Elizabeth Banks talked about her own humble background: she referred to the time in her life when she worked as a waitress and did not have health insurance and had to eat a bagel for brunch each day.  Hillary talked to someone who worked two full-time jobs and barely made ends meet.  That reminded me of what I like about the Democratic Party: it is sensitive to people with struggles.  I should mention, though, that conservative Laura Ingraham at the GOP convention also talked about her humble, working-class background: her mother worked as a waitress for decades.  Laura's mother criticized those who were burning the American flag, saying to Laura, "They have no respect, honey."  The Democratic convention was highlighting the vulnerability of the working class and saying that Democratic policies would help them.  Laura Ingraham was appealing to working class Americanism and was referring to her parents' working-class background, at least in part, to criticize illegal immigration: she said that Americans are willing to do the jobs that illegal immigrants do, in challenging arguments to the contrary. 
  17. Donna Brazile is the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee.  Her speech at the convention was lackluster, but she is very effective in debates, on TV news shows, and at schmoozing.  People have their own talents! 

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