DNC vs. RNC: A tale of two 2012 conventions

Opinion

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Republicans and Democrats have wrapped their presidential nominating conventions, and they couldn’t have been more different.

From the staging to the messaging, and even the entertainment, the Democrats and Republicans put on display two very different visions of America. In fact, the one thing the two confabs had in common was that both were focused squarely on President Barack Obama.

One of the conventions was animated by anti-Obama fervor, and an almost angry rallying cry to turn him out of the White House at all costs. The other was more festive, and the delegates were united around Obama, and his call to keep the country moving forward, even if the pace of change is slower than everyone, including the president and his administration, hoped.

At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida last week, speaker after speaker lambasted the president over the state of the economy and jobs. They excoriated him as unprepared, incapable and clueless when it comes to job creation. They drew roars of approval from the crowd every time they derided the evils of “Obamacare.” There were no specifics as to what Republicans would do differently — pointedly, no mention of vouchers replacing Medicare. And positive statements about their candidate drew only muted applause.

In many ways, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, was an afterthought. He was the primary subject of one gauzy video presentation (an actually well crafted piece about his family) and just a handful of speeches — a few by parishioners of his Mormon church, talking about times Romney has helped others, a speech defending Bain Capital, which was at least tangentially about Mitt, and the opening night speech by Romney’s wife Ann, during which she repeatedly lauded “that boy who brought me home from the school dance.”

Other than that, Romney was barely mentioned, including most notably, by Tuesday’s closing speaker, New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Even Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s highly-anticipated speech seemed more like an audition for the 2016 election than a send-up to the current nominee. And of course, there was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose speech provided a rare reminder that at one time in history, there existed something called “the Bush administration.”

Overall, the Republican convention, with its almost entirely white, older, more well-heeled crowd, seemed like a three-day journey back in time. There were waves of nostalgia about Ronald Reagan. Large, black and white photos of the Romneys as a young couple in the 1950s served as the backdrop when Ann Romney spoke. Onstage were Olympic athletes from the 1980s, former American Idol contestants from seasons it’s hard to recall, and of course, octogenarian actor Clint Eastwood talking to a chair.

This was your grandfather’s convention, and its message, in essence, was “that guy in the White House is to blame for all of America’s problems, and we don’t like the looks of his America. This country was meant to be ours, not ‘theirs,’ and we’re taking it back.” There was no mention of America’s wars (and pointedly, Romney left the wars and the men and women fighting them, out of his acceptance speech).

Democrats focused on Obama, too, only their message was: “we love this guy.”