Saturday, September 8, 2012
Donkeys and Elephants
These last few weeks have been an epic feast for followers such as myself of the true national pastime: electoral politics. They say the party conventions are an outmoded anachronism, not strictly necessary for gathering the votes of delegates and officially sanctioning the candidacy of the party's nominee. But I say there is no better event for gauging the collective stylistic impulses of the Republicans and the Democrats, and after all, that's what we vote for when we vote. One team or another, choose sides. This is about family and tribe more than it is about policy or template for the future, and the conventions give us a glimpse into the differing worlds of Donkey America vs. Elephant America. The comforting thing for me is how comforting both of them have become. The differences between the two are like choosing between chocolate and vanilla on a hot summer day. You know what you're going to get will be a different experience. But at the end of the day, with both you will be left thirsty, fatter, and longing for more. So the gut impressions we are left make all the difference. Tampa was a gathering of small business owners, the salt of the earth, every day Americans, steadfast, loyal, mostly white, true believers in a world that is fast disappearing. Charlotte was a broad, fast-moving river of differing constituencies, mostly urban, mostly hip, unstoppable. Barring no major shakeups in the world order, there is no way Obama can lose. The Democrats make better spectacle and we love to be entertained.
America remains a centrist, pragmatic nation where the practice of democracy is deeply engrained and richly entertaining. The two parties' conventions are a mirror reflection of each other, both faithful reenactments of American citizenship. The differences between Dems and Repubs are differences of style, not substance, and even in their policy platforms, you can see that the aims of the two parties are the same, with mere differences of opinion about the best way to get there. The fact that Republicans are portrayed by their opponents as proto-fascist villains, and Democrats likewise as European elitists in disguise waiting to bring in the rule of the United Nations has more to do with cheerleading than with reality.