A Tale of Two Conventions
- 7 September 2008 by Author 0 Comments
A Tale of Two Conventions
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 09/07/08
Having watched both the Democratic and Republican conventions over the past couple of weeks I feel like I’ve had my fill of flatulent garrulity and hyperbolic rhetoric. I just can’t take another political speech for awhile and need to recover from the sensory overload. But in the midst of my recuperative period, I have reflected over the two conventions and found, at least from my perspective, some interesting dichotomies and contrasts.
For example, staging and presentation at conventions is designed to present candidates in the best possible light, emphasizing the strengths of the respective candidates. Obama’s acceptance speech was staged with grandiosity in a massive football arena, with the stage adorned with Greek columns, undoubtedly to present the candidate as comfortable with the Greek pantheon of gods, equal to his self-perception. McCain’s acceptance speech was staged in an unostentatious setting comparable to a town-hall meeting, which speaking format the Senator has become increasingly comfortable with. The emphasis for McCain seemed to be much more on his message and the convention theme of service and “Country First” than drawing attention to him as an anointed one.
There was great contrast in the fundamental attraction of the two primary pop-star personalities of the respective conventions: Senator Obama and Governor Sarah Palin. Obama’s emotional appeal lies largely in what he says he is and can do, while Palin’s appeal lies in what she has done and the values she represents.
Even at the top of the ticket. The Republican convention featured speakers who spoke from first-hand knowledge of the character and accomplishments of their candidate, while the accolades heaped upon the other candidate seemed somehow paranormal, even they had two autobiographies they could have drawn from to speak to his character and accomplishments.
Ideologically, the contrast was stark as well. McCain and the slate of speakers at the Republican convention spoke repeatedly of the roots of American exceptionalism. They spoke of those things that have, from the very incipient stages of this country, made America great and unique with repetitive references to freedom, liberty, individual choice, and illimitable opportunity. The Democratic convention, to the contrary, focused on governments’ role in improving the quality of life in America, while stressing the requisite election of their pop-star candidate to achieve American nirvana.
Not surprisingly, the themes of the speeches at the respective conventions drew sharp contrasts. I came away from watching the Democratic convention feeling like America was a third-world country, plagued with poverty, inequality, inadequate education, and insufficient government intervention in our lives. Horror story after horror story was laid out of Americans who can’t make ends meet, can’t get the insurance they need, can’t pay for the gas to get to their jobs, and feel no hope for improvement unless a certain pseudo-messianic figure is elected president.
The Republican convention, while at times recognizing the shortcomings of our country, seemed to focus on the greatness of America, and the values and culture that have afforded us our current preeminent status in the world. They stressed the need to perpetuate those values and that culture. Speaker after speaker stressed the ideal that our freedom allows us to become what we want, and that the role of government, rather than serving as a panacea to all the struggles that Americans face, is most effective when it is least affective and minimally invasive in individual liberty and personal freedom.
In short, for the Democrats, government needs to fix everything, whether broken or not, and for the Republicans, government needs to cost less and limit freedom less in order to stay out of the way so Americans can achieve their potential.
Is this an objective reading on the two conventions? Admittedly not, as I subscribe to the latter philosophy of governmental minimalism and reduced incursion into our individual liberty. I don’t believe that government is the panacea and am of the opinion that very little in our government works as advertised. To a large extent, it seems evident that government pulls a “bait-and-switch” on tax-payers: give us more of your money since we know how to spend it better than you do, and we’ll make your lives better in all the following ways. And they then proceed to take more of our hard-earned money and nothing improves. Rather than ameliorating American society and culture, they erode it with high expectations that they cannot deliver and increased encumbrance from the higher taxes. And whatever is proposed, always costs more than advertised, and under-delivers in the services propounded.
Perhaps I am jaded, but I just have a hard time believing that the lambs will lie down with the lions with the election of one candidate, or that America will go to hell in a hand-basket if the other candidate is elected. The President sets the tone for the country and sets the agenda to a large extent for the next four years. That tone can serve to expand the role of government or reduce the invasion of government into our lives. To me, the latter is much more realistic and consistent with the principles America was founded on.
As for the clarion calls of change from both conventions, I don’t envision or anticipate a parting of the Potomac by the election of one of those candidates as the myriad of government workers bow toward the While House in newfound dedication to the service of America. But I do think that a couple of mavericks who have a history of going after corruption and wrong-doing, even in their own party, can make a change worth investing a vote in. That is change I can believe in.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.