[Note: written midday Thursday, but due to technical problems did not post until after Thursday night's proceedings]
The underwhelming first two days of
speechifying at the Republican National Convention was the almost
inevitable result of several factors.
For one thing, the Republican Party has
very, very few pols who are popular, or even palatable, to the
general American public. People despise the congressional
Republicans. Anyone from the Bush administration – including Bush –
are perhaps even more tainted. Consider that the two deemed
acceptable enough for the stage were Rob Portman, the budget director
who oversaw the explosion of the federal deficit; and Condaleezza
Rice, who was in charge of national security when 9/11 and the Iraq
Romney's campaign has clearly sent the
Tea Party contingent to the attic. Michele Bachmann et al have not
been seen, and Buzzfeed's Rosie Gray reports that the very words have
not been uttered from the stage, in the first nominating convention
since the movement began.
In addition, those who do speak have
been denuded, again for mainstream consumption. Jobs and the economy,
and perhaps some foreign policy, are about all they're allowed to
talk about. Abortion, gay marriage, immigration, voter fraud, gun
control, and other animating issues have been almost completely
absent – not to mention the crypto-birtherism, end-of-liberty,
cultural depravity, and sovereignty-ceding talk common on the
Presidential campaign trail, and prevalent in many delegates' daily
Another factor: affirmative action. Or,
whatever you choose to call the blatant preferential treatment of
women and racial minorities. Howled at with derision and outrage in
any other context by the Republican faithful, it is accepted and even
gloated over at the RNC. This year's spectacle has been especially
flagrant, with almost any elected female or Latino hauled out to the
stage, regardless of their obscurity or ability to deliver a speech.
Not that they were all bad – Susana Martinez in particular I liked
– but as opponents of affirmative action normally note, you can end
up passing over much better when you're advancing a small minority
(very small, in the case of Republican elected women) straight to the
front of the line.
A logistical problem didn't help
matters. Speech planning is something like charting seating for a
wedding. The various purposes and target audiences get matched up
with times and expected TV coverage. But the unexpected cancellation
of Monday's program forced a last-minute reshuffling, which led to
cramming a lot of make-goods – the Presidential and VP also-rans –
into a smaller window; and also created jarring juxtapositions like
belligerent Chris Christie following American Sweatheart Ann Romney.
One more problem: on the central topic
of jobs and economic growth, nobody could really talk much about what
Romney would do, because he hasn't put any policy flesh on his vague
promises to make things better.
That's fine; the opposition party
absolutely should spend the bulk of its convention making the
argument against the incumbent. So, the overwhelming Obama-pounding
was neither surprising nor inappropriate.
It was, however, poorly done. It was
mostly second- and third-rate speakers, shorn of their usual red-meat
rhetoric, just sort of randomly saying that jobs aren't available
because Obama hates small business. Or something like that.