The Democratic National Convention is well underway in Los Angeles, though it has brought precious little in the way of drama or imagination. The President’s self-congratulatory speech on Monday night gave the party faithful something to applaud, and Senator Lieberman’s remarks let the party believe that nominating a popular Jewish senator from an affluent state was the moral equivalent of sheltering Anne Frank in its attic. So while the party’s delegates go through the motions of deliberating, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the convention is the Republican reaction to it.
As anyone who has even been a member of a political mailing list knows by now, the Republican National Committee has been spamming everyone whose email addresses they could get their hands on with their “Victory2K” convention updates. In typical GOP style, they’re criticizing the convention as if they were Democrats themselves. Hopelessly enamored of the idea that they need to neutralize every popular Democratic issue by making it their own, the Republicans are letting the Democrats set the agenda and painting themselves into the proverbial corner just as the campaign is about to begin in earnest.
Consider the (mercifully abbreviated) talking points that the RNC is busily providing to everyone in town:
· “…Al Gore has repeatedly failed to fight for working families.”
Not terrible, but it still reeks of the kind of class warfare for which the Democrats are so well known. Is the fact that he has allegedly failed to “fight for working families” really worse than, say, his failure to fight for free markets and limited government?
· “Despite nearly a decade of uninterrupted of economic growth, Clinton-Gore have squandered bipartisan opportunities on health care, tax fairness, and other key issues. As a result, millions of Americans have been left behind.”
Recycling another even more insidious device of the Envious Left, Republicans seemed determined to convince people that there is a seething, impoverished underclass in this country that desperately needs government help just to survive – a dangerous move for a party that is supposed to exalt personal responsibility and ambition.
· “Millions of Americans face the fear of losing their health insurance and joining the ranks of the more than 44 million Americans who are uninsured today.”
Is Jim Nicholson trying to tell us we have a Health Care Crisis in this country? One would think there are enough Republicans left over from the fight against the Clinton health care plan that pulling out the “alarming” statistics on the number of people without coverage would have been voted down at headquarters. After all, if the Republicans pretend that they want some sort of expansive new government program to provide health coverage, the rest of the country might actually believe them – and expect them to deliver.
And, without a doubt, worst of all:
· “Americans want to change the tone in Washington so we can tackle the big issues facing our nation. No child should be left behind”
The phrase “for the children” has long been a political cliché – whenever someone wants their pet project to sound pure and necessary, they tell everyone it’s “for the children.” It’s the reverse of the debater’s last-chance gambit – if you’re losing the argument, call your opponent a Nazi. If your political program is so indefensible you couldn’t possibly justify it rationally, say it’s for the children.
Note also that the Republicans aren’t making the comparatively bold (if equally meaningless) assertion “We won’t leave a single child behind.” They’re merely saying that no child should be left behind, whatever that means. Which presumably would mean that to disagree with them, you would have to express the desire that large numbers of children should suffer while the rest of the country prospers. Now that’s integrity. George W. may not win in November, but with talking points like these, he’s likely to at least be voted the second-best Democrat in the race.