How We Got to Philly – Setting the Stage for the Democratic Convention

Thomas Kennedy is a Center for Community Change Action (CCCA) Writing Fellow who is covering the Democratic National Convention for Law@theMargins.
Thomas Kennedy is a Center for Community Change Action (CCCA) Writing Fellow who is covering the Democratic National Convention for Law@theMargins.

Last week’s Republican National Convention proved itself to be a fiasco. Not since the conventions of 1968 and 1972 has the American public witnessed such a chaotic spectacle in national politics. From Melania Trump’s plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech, Ted Cruz being booed off stage after refusing to endorse the nominee, and Donald Trump’s rambling Mussoliniesque acceptance speech, the RNC felt like a creepy episode of the Twilight Zone. The GOP has now fully embraced its candidate’s hate and xenophobia and the contrast between the two presidential tickets was plain to see during Hillary Clinton’s Miami rally a few days later, in which her running mate Tim Kaine addressed the crowd by telling them in both English and Spanish “Bienvenidos a todos en nuestro pais, porque somos Americanos todos.” (“Welcome to all in our country, because we are all Americans.”)

There have been sharp divisions within the Democratic Party during the primaries and the selection of Tim Kaine as running mate has left some in the progressive base of the party disappointed, but what is undeniable is the stark difference in tone and approach that the Democrats are employing. Trump’s theme throughout his Nixonian speech was “Law & Order” and he did his best to invoke fear in the minds of his supporters, yet his dystopian vision of America is one that is detached from actual reality. The violence and crime that was prevalent throughout his speech simply does not exist, with statistics showing that crime rates have been in sharp decline for the last 25 years, Mexican immigrants are leaving the country at a faster rate than they are coming in, and police deaths have decreased by 24 percent between 2005 and 2015.

Blatant false statements such as the claim that the United States is the most heavily taxed nation in the world or that Syrian refugees are not vetted before allowing passage into the country were thrown around without care because Donald Trump has the demagogue’s gift of shamelessness. He knows his audience distrusts the establishment and they will dismiss facts and data as part of some strange conspiracy to topple down his candidacy and his wish to “make America great again.” Put simply Trump has no incentive to tell the truth or tone down his rhetoric because it has served him well so far, after all he vanquished 17 rivals during the Republican primaries using this approach to politics, he will either ride it out and win or most likely crash and burn in November.

The Democratic National Convention probably won’t run completely smoothly either. Just this week DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaking slots were scrapped from the convention after emails were leaked calling into question the impartiality of the DNC during the primary process, leading to her resignation.  That only adds further pressure on party loyalists and officials, who know that there is a need to come together to oppose what many feel is the most dangerous presidential ticket in modern political history. Over the early summer months, they have been gearing up to to prove to those still undecided voters that Republicans have truly made a mistake of historical proportions in electing Trump as the candidate to lead their ticket. The choice of Mike Pence as running mate seemed to only further cement just how truly dangerous a Trump presidency would be to communities of struggle such as Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims women and LGBT folks. Pence made his career as governor in Indiana by opposing abortion rights and gained national prominence after passing legislation allowing businesses to deny services to people based on their sexual orientation, costing the state up to $250 million dollars in lost revenue after businesses decided to boycott.

Yet, there are plenty of Bernie and Green Party supporters who feel disenfranchised by their party’s politics and will be at the convention to protest and call for the Democrats to adopt a more progressive platform going forward. They are looking for stronger language on issues like climate change, the influence of money in politics, TPP trade deals and fracking.  The big question is how far will the Democratic Party go in bringing in the thousands of new voters that have mobilized around these issues, especially if they want to build a sustainable winning coalition for the future.

One thing is certain however. By the end of the week, the DNC convention should make it clear as to where each of the parties stand on the issues that will move voters to the polls this November. The stage will then be set for an election that, for better or worse, will determine the direction of this country for generations to come.

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