Democratic National Convention First Night Crystallizes the Presidential Election: Collectivism vs. Individualism

–Richard E. Vatz
     The essence of the first night of the Democrats’ convention was to demonstrate the one thing on which the Democrats and Republicans agree: this is an election between the Democrats’ worship of collectivism and the Republicans’ worship of individualism.

n  San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro’s keynote address, the first Democratic Latino keynote address, was not bad, but not memorable except for the demographics.  He praised the Democratic god-terms of education – will anyone do a serious cost-benefit analysis of the tremendous money put in educational sources by government and the outcomes? – opportunity, and, of course, praised his mother, as is de rigueur it seems in all political rhetoric today (I want to thank my belated mother for, along with my belated father, sending me to the University of Pittsburgh, where I could not have afforded to go to get the degrees that qualified me for university teaching but for their help). 
More and more government spending by the president was applauded as a way to avoid the alleged Romney-Ryan covert plan to dismantle middle-class America.  Well delivered, nothing new – it seems almost everyone has learned how to deliver a speech except for Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman of the Republicans – too bad; they would have made great Vice Presidents.
n  Michelle Obama:   I loved her speech; so sue me.  She reflects the Democratic ethic of government spending and collectivism, but the ode to her husband was every bit the equal of Ann Romney’s, although Mrs. Romney had to change some others’ perceptions about her husband.  Mrs. Obama recounted the Obama family trials, the genuine partnership she has with Barack, and his utter ingenuousness (as far as she knows) – again, if you want an empathetic president (and only an empathetic president), Barack Obama is your man, per this speech. ( I, for one, am convinced).  He benefitted, as did Michelle, from the selflessness of their parents, and, in an unconscious nod to conservatives, by Mrs. Obama’s descriptions, they personify the work ethic in America.

His integrity, abjuring of shortcuts, honesty and general integrity make him a stellar man and husband, and in her understandable leap of faith, a great president.
     The Democrats simply cannot and could not defend their record of accomplishment.  I am convinced that if the entire electorate could view the impromptu Fox debate the first night of the Democratic Convention between Sean Hannity and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson,  President Obama would lose re-election by 20 points.
     In Gov. Richardson’s guileless defense of Barack Obama in the face of factual point after factual regarding the deficit, the debt, unemployment and general economic stewardship of the Obama Administration, he was left with the claim that unemployment is better under Obama (factual error) and regardless, Obama is very “well-liked.” 
     Richardson repeatedly refused — to his credit — to substitute ugliness pertaining to Romney, and he looked resigned and defeated in the substantive debate over the Obama Administration’s record.

     That great old Saturday Night Live skit years ago regarding Democrats’ bemoaning that they couldn’t “believe this guy [George W. Bush] is beating us” could be applied to Obama’s resiliency in the polls.
     American needs to ask itself in this election: what are the critical issues on which to base my vote?
     The Democrats’ answer the first night of the convention: President Obama is a great and attractive guy, empathetic to the nth degree, one who “feels your pain,”  one who supports collectivism and Mitt Romney is an out-of-touch rich guy.

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Professor Vatz teaches Political Rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012, 2013)

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