From what I’ve seen and read about the first day of the convention, the Democratic talk about toning down the rhetoric was a smoke screen, pure and simple. Their strategy is to say they will be reasonable and moderate, and then to stand up and tell it like it is. When the predictable screams come in from the right, they can say they were being reasonable and moderate, so what’s the problem, and besides it’s all true.I think this is pretty much right. On one level it’s analagous to the way George W. Bush gets to change positions and policies six times in an afternoon and yet be portrayed as “resolute.” He gets away with it because he never misses a chance to tell everyone how resolute he is. (As Fafblog summarized a recent presidential press conference, Bush’s resolve “is resolute and firm. It is so firm! You have no idea how firm our resolve is. It’s pretty firm I’ll tell you that.”)
But on another level it’s just a way to give supporters more flexible rhetorical tools. Here’s today’s Washington Post, showing how this strategy plays out:
Before Kerry’s arrival in Boston, former senator Max Cleland of Georgia roused a sleepy Virginia delegation with a fiery breakfast speech in which he charged that there is a “total disconnect” between Bush and the troops he sent into Iraq […]“Oh, I’m supposed to be nice.” Much deadlier, really, than the same old insults. And nobody reading it is in any doubt who Ms. Reigel is referring to.
The veteran and longtime Kerry friend, who lost his legs and an arm in Vietnam, nearly brought several of the delegates to tears.
“I love Max Cleland,” said Wava Reigel, a delegate from Virginia Beach. “He can identify with people who go to war and have injuries. And you know who can’t. Oh, I’m supposed to be nice.”
Former British Foreign Secretary David Owen has a fascinating article on the role of disease, depression, and dementia in modern matters of state.
It’s already been hashed over in detail in some corners of the blogosphere, but this New York Times Magazine article on the newly-emerging network of big-ticket progressive donors is worth a look. So are these two posts about it by strategist Ruy Teixeira.
Speaking of names, I wouldn’t turn down one of these red signs, should one come up spare. Just a thought…
Finally, the great Garry Wills, whose first name is misspelled by bloggers almost as frequently as Teresa Heinz Kerry’s, reviews Bill Clinton’s memoir with his usual elan. No More Mister Nice Blog and Digby take issue with Wills’s idea that we’d all be better off if Clinton had simply resigned and handed the country over to Al Gore in 1998.
If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief—I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper—that makes this country work. […]If I were any more impressed I’d be packing my bags and moving to Illinois to vote for him this year. Glory and also hallelujah. Bring him on.
Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of “anything goes.” Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America.
There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into “red states” and “blue states”; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states.
There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
UPDATE: More. Just as good.
It is an odd notion that the Democratic Party is about to flicker out and, like Tinker Bell, can be saved only if all the delegates chant, “We do believe in moderation. We do. We do.” An especially irritating variant, usually from conservative commentators, holds piously that the Democratic Party must save itself because two parties are essential to democracy or because competition is good for the Republicans.Funny about that.
These themes have reverberated around Democratic conventions since the first post-McGovernite election year of 1976. By now the word “McGovernite,” never exactly filled with schismatic drama and romance, must be about as meaningful to the average voter as “Shachtmanite” or “Albigensian.” George McGovern, children, was a senator from South Dakota (a region of the upper west side of Manhattan in the geographical mythology of Democratic Party critics) and the Democratic presidential candidate in 1972. He was, and is, a left-liberal. The Republican offering that year was Richard Nixon (with Spiro Agnew for dessert), but it is the Democrats who have been apologizing for their choice ever since.
You would not know from the Democrats’ three decades of defensiveness about themselves and the label “liberal” that the Democratic candidate got more votes than the Republican one in each of the past three presidential elections.
Needless to say, but the Free Press says it anyway:
Blacks comprise 83 percent of Detroit’s population, and the city routinely gives Democratic candidates a substantial majority of its votes. […]Of course, Rep. Pappageorge is truly, deeply sorry if anyone has drawn any conclusions from his accidentally telling the truth:
“In the context that we were talking about, I said we’ve got to get the vote up in Oakland (County) and the vote down in Detroit. You get it down with a good message. I don’t know how we got them from there to ‘racist,’” Pappageorge said. “If I have given offense in any way to my colleagues in Detroit or anywhere, I apologize.”Yeah, it’s not like Republicans have any kind of history of hanky-panky along these lines. Or, perish the thought, like if you’re particularly good at it, they’ll elevate you to high office.
Bring on the legal SWAT teams, is all I can say. We’re going to need them.
2. Our promises for the future are supposed to be fiction.Oh, and this too:
10. When we sling mud, it’s probably in a workshop on making alien pottery.
20. Our speakers are actually entertaining.
34. We won’t be saying nasty things about other conventions.
36. If we rewrite history we label it as fiction or “alternative history”.
66. At both shows, people will play fast and loose with numbers. At Noreascon, this is called “world building”. At the DNC, it will be called an economics platform.Nice! Now that the organizers of Noreascon have very kindly explained that Democrats are liars, I look forward to seeing their other exciting opinions about the non-fannish affiliations of various of their members. Perhaps Noreascon will take up insulting Catholics next. Or people on one or another side of the gun argument. That should work out well.
Here’s another way a World Science Fiction Convention isn’t like an national political convention:
1. People overseas are rarely thrown in jail for struggling for the right to organize science fiction conventions.
But enough with the humorless jazz! After all, the practice of democracy in America is so firmly established that it’s just fine for Noreascon Four to devote a portion of their web page to expressing science fiction fandom’s traditional contempt for normal democratic politics. Since, after all, it was science fiction fandom that brought America the five-day week, an end to lynching, checks against corporate power, cleaner air and water and, oh yeah, the space program. You may have thought politics and government had something to do with all of those those, but actually, it’s we science fiction fans (who never sling mud, give boring speeches, or prevaricate) who really know what’s what. You know, unlike those “mundanes.”
UPDATE, 25 July: Good on Noreascon 4 for subsequently editing some of the excesses on the page in question. Bad on them for not acknowledging that they’d done so.
Our media systems have created a simple-minded, schoolyard culture of question and answer that the good people at Fox News have adapted into a public version of an interrogation. “Are you a liberal?” “Do you support Saddam Hussein?” “Is your Epidermis showing?” “Have you got a bike?” We know that a lengthy explanation is a shady explanation and all answers to some questions are just wrong. Moore has mastered this technique. He is a doggedly stupid journalist, “How can you do these things to people?” “Why did you fire all the workers? Why did you bomb Iraq? Why? Why? Why?” He doesnít load himself down thinking about the answers to questions before he asks them. He fires away greedy for easy satisfaction, like a child who trusts authority figures and yet is continually disappointed by them. He wants to hear the simple truth simply. Because he hasnít received straight answers, heís decided that these people are untrustworthy, and sometimes heís right. […]RTWT. Discuss.
The enlightenment liberal prizes truth arrived at through an exchange of ideas in a zone free from basic prejudices of faction or identity. If he wishes to keep a sense of his value inside our big polis, he must forget this unpleasant fact: Americans make too many decisions on appearance. Call it stupidity or call it emotional intelligence, “I liked his face,” but whatever you call it, itís not foolproof. Moore feels Americaís love of stupidity. He is part fat clown and barking Barnum. If it makes anxious left wing intellectuals feel better, we can reach to academic language for an ennobling term, the Rabelaisian. Moore is our gigantic carnival figure. He plays us for suckers and we love him or hate him for it. He mocks the reasoning that has tied us in circles and does what he wants. He stands up for the oppressed, for the left of flesh and blood: prick us do we not bleed, tickle us do we not laugh? And he farted in the general direction of the liberal order of fair play, reasoned debate, and open covenants openly arrived at, because he felt wronged and he took his revenge.
The best way to enjoy Fahrenheit 9/11 is as a revenge flick. It is fine vengeance for all the indignities the liberal left has suffered at the hands of the Republicans and especially the Bush dynasty and its minions since 1988. Moore has plotted his payback for a long time. For Willie Horton, for Hillary Clintonís social kiss of Yasser Arafat, Moore returns the favor with a montage of handshakes with kaffiyehed Saudis that is undeniably racist. No American politician will ever shake hands with an Arab wearing traditional garb again without first banishing all cameras. In retaliation for the success the Republicans had with the wooden Al Gore of 2000 and the ballyhooed bad pancake make-up in his first debate with Bush, Moore fires back with W.ís flickering lost look when he hears that the planes have hit, and, of course, the make-over sequence at the beginning of the film. The final touch, Moore hopes, will be fooling the same people the Republicans have been fooling for years.
The revenge isnít finished, and there may yet be an honest judge waiting in the wings to make sure that the pound of flesh isnít fully exacted. But regardless of the outcome of the next election, no one on the left, or even in the liberal center, can keep a nervous distance from this film.
Okay, that’s done. Onward, then.