Thoughts on the Democratic National Convention, Part 1

Before I start off, I wanted to bid farewell to the late Michael Clarke Duncan. Many times, he entertained me on the big screen, he always struck me as a nice guy, and he will be missed. Now, for the topic at hand. I have so much to say about the latest Democratic National Convention that I will be covering it in two articles.

  1. Jared Polis’ speech was great. He did a good job demonstrating what it meant for him, as a gay American and one of a very small number of openly gay people elected to Congress, to see Barack Obama help end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and be the first sitting U.S. president to support full equality for gays and lesbians. By mentioning that he is a father, he reminded those viewers who like to think of gay people as strange, alien creatures, that many gays and lesbians have started loving families of their own. And I was thrilled that he included a shout out to Native Americans, who have so often been marginalized.
  2. I was really thrilled, in general, with the emphasis placed on gay rights. A slew of speakers brought up the importance of equal rights for gay Americans, and some explicitly referenced equal marriage rights. This, combined with the 2012 Democratic Party platform supporting same sex marriage has made me decide that I will probably register Democrat as soon as possible. I have always remained an independent, because, as much as I detest the post-1960s Republican Party, I was turned off by the Democratic Party’s pre-2012 waffling on gay rights and historic support for slavery and segregation. Now, however, I believe that the Democratic Party has turned over a new leaf and earned my support.
  3. I was really interested to see Lincoln Chafee’s speech, because I have been a longtime fan of him for his vote against the War in Iraq and the proposed anti-flag desecration amendment, support for gay equality, and racial equality, and abolition of the death penalty. Let’s face it, Chafee is virtually the only governor who can sign a voter I.D. law, say he’s motivated solely by a desire to prevent voter fraud rather than a desire to prevent blacks from voting, and have me believe him. I’ve noticed that it has become customary for conventions to bring in someone with a background in the opposite party to give a speech endorsing the convention’s pick. The logic seems to be, “This guy must really be hot s@#% if even people from the other party are endorsing him!” In 2004, the Republicans trotted out Democratic Senator Zell Miller. In 2008, the Democrats brought out former Republican Congressman Jim Leach. This year, the Republicans had Jane Edmonds, a liberal Democrat from Romney’s old Massachusetts Cabinet, while the Democrats had Lincoln Chafee and former Florida governor Charlie Crist. Chafee did a great job laying out his disagreements with the current Republican Party and pointed out how his support for personal freedom causes him to support same sex marriage. Watching his speech made me realize that moderate and liberal Republicans, when talking about their party’s history and criticizing the modern day Hard Right, always seem to praise Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. And rightly they should. To my mind, Lincoln was the best president ever, and both Teddy and Ike make it in the top five. I would also like to see more of these moderate and liberal Republicans reference Grant, Harding, and Coolidge, but I can’t complain too much.
  4. Representing the old Democratic Party, we had socially moderate populist Ted Strickland’s speech, which was very much designed to convince working class Americans that Mitt Romney is a money grubbing, elitist slime ball. His line, “If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves” actually had me cracking up. But it does raise an interesting issue. We have been hearing a lot about Mitt outsourcing jobs. And indeed, outsourcing is a real problem. I myself have always tended to be pretty anti-free trade, and it seems like the Democratic Party is finally shifting in that direction. However, it is somewhat strange that Strickland criticized Mitt Romney for outsourcing, when one of the Democratic convention’s main event speakers is basically the king of outsourcing. But we’ll get to that later on.
  5. Deval Patrick’s speech was probably the best of the convention. Like Chafee, he criticized the hypocrisy of Republicans claiming to believe in individual rights, yet being against same sex marriage. Overall, everything from his speaking style to his wording was excellent. I had to give him four stars instead of five, because it seems that at certain points he stretched the truth. Still, this issue did not detract from the overall quality of the speech, and expecting politicians not to lie is like expecting dogs not to lick their . . . well, you get the idea. It was easy to see why Deval Patrick has started speaking at every convention, and he and Andrew Cuomo are among the people that first come to mind when I think about who should succeed Obama in 2016.
  6. I was really excited for Cory Booker’s speech. I believe that he would be a great vice presidential pick for whichever Democrat runs in 2016, and I would love to see him run for president in 2024. He’s a superb mayor, a stalwart gay rights supporter, and an all around cool guy. However, he really needs to stop shouting so much in his speeches. I did not have a problem with it, but I fear it will turn a lot of people off. Speaking of the platform, I cannot say that I am too fond of the Democratic Party’s fiscal policy. I tend to agree with the late Paul Tsongas that, “If anyone thinks the words government and efficiency belong in the same sentence, we have counseling available.” But while I am a fiscal conservative, and my top priority is gay rights, the Democratic Party is doing the right thing politically by making the economy a big issue in the campaign. I am just glad they have made gay rights a big issue as well.
  7. While I get the Democrats’ decision to talk a lot about the economy, it was probably not the best use of Barney Frank’s time. Frank is a guy that I like because of his civil rights and civil liberties policies and the anti-gay barriers that he has broken down. On economics, he sometimes gets it rights, but he is too closely identified with the reckless government policies that encouraged banks to give out loans to people who could not pay them back. The fact that George W. Bush also took similarly dangerous economic stances does not exonerate Frank in this area. So I really would have rather Frank talked about the struggles he has faced as a gay American and one of the few openly gay members of Congress, how Mitt Romney tried to derail gay marriage in Frank’s state, and the negative effect a Romney presidency would have on gay rights. Instead, he talked about the economy, where he has less credibility. However, reminding us why he’s way funnier than Mike Huckabee, Frank saved what could have been a failed speech by christening the Republican nominee “Myth Romney” and accusing him of lying about his ability to create jobs.
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