President, Woman’s National Democratic Club
From the President
September 1, 2020: A Tale of Two Conventions
Posted on December 11, 2023 at 12:00 AM
The year 2020 dawned innocently enough. There were exciting events to plan. The presidential election was underway and America was celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage. January slid easily into February and then came March. Soft but uneasy rumblings of a spreading deadly virus became strident
shouts across the globe and by the middle of March countries started to shut down amid mounting infections and deaths. As months dragged on in isolation and fear, it became apparent that this was going to be a unique, be-masked, and isolationist election.
Normally National Conventions are glittering, multi-day affairs. A virtual one, stripped to its essentials by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic meltdown, made it hard to generate the same kind of energy.
The Democratic Convention, however, appeared to be tailor-made for Mr. Biden’s earnest and decent political message. The lack of glitz made for a more serious-minded presentation. The televised broadcasts gave voice to ordinary people recounting stories about lives affected by the pandemic, recession, and racism. Mr. Biden used his acceptance speech to highlight important issues, rather than play up the rhetoric that would have been expected in a packed hall. The convention focused more on persuasion of ordinary citizens than appealing to the base.
The four days of the Democratic Convention brought many memorable moments, from Kamala Harris’s historic nomination as vicepresident, to Michelle Obama’s admonition of Donald Trump. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama gave scathing reviews of the country under Trump. However, these comments always remained within context and the bounds of decency. The speakers called for addressing societal ills and bettering the lives of all.
America was experiencing “too much anger, too much fear, too much division,” said Vice-President Biden, referencing the four policy crises: the worst pandemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the biggest movement for social justice since the 1960s, and the undeniable threat of climate change. He promised “a path of hope and light.” Kamala Harris’s acceptance speech capped off a night of Democrats celebrating women’s suffrage and pleading with voters to protect American democracy.
And then came the Republican Convention—glitzy, brash, and strident. Exploding with too much anger, too much fear, and too much division. A stage production by the “Apprentice” team, it presented a fierce defense of Trump, followed by warnings about a dark future under Biden. The specter of communism and socialism was raised over and over. Racism as it exists in America was denied outright with Black speakers attesting to that. The threat to suburban Whites from dangerous minorities moving into their neighborhoods was highlighted. Protestors were depicted as marauding gangs bent upon destruction. Police brutality was denied, law enforcement officers presented to whitewash their transgressions. All red meat for the base, on whom the convention focused.
Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, the strident Guilfoyle, V.P. Pence, and Pompeo, all seemed to be speaking directly to Trump “to make his lonely soul feel affirmed.” The two Trump boys and daughter Tiffany painted a dystopian picture of America under Biden, while singing praises of their father. Melania Trump’s speech in the Rose Garden of the White House stressing her immigrant roots, and the staged immigrant swearing-in ceremony, were ironic given the anti-immigrant policies of her husband.
There was a direct contrast between the Democratic and Republican campaigns. While one stressed policy, substance, and heart, the latter was staged rhetoric and bombast. There is no 2020 Republican platform; too many of the speakers were Trump family members and the incumbent president chose to appear nightly—because he could. It is, as always, only about him—the country be damned! The wrecking ball of the Trump presidency and the sycophantic compliance of the Republican Senate has made it a battle for the soul of our nation, with huge consequences for the world at large.