After watching the Republican convention and reading about plans for the Democratic one next week in Charlotte, N.C., I find myself thinking: 1968.
That was the year the Democratic convention drew such Yippie luminaries as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, along with SDS honcho Tom Hayden, to stage protests in Chicago. The scene was so out of the mainstream that the Democrats were pegged the “Chicago Democrats” (please, Lord, don’t let this year’s crop be dubbed the “Charlotte Democrats!”) to capture the radical nature of the gathering. George McGovern was nominated. Richard Nixon, whose likeability factor was not of the first rank, won the presidency.
I don’t think that Charlotte is going to erupt in violence, but I do think that there is a distinct possibility that we’re going to see a convention that is desperately out of sync with mainstream Americans.
Both political parties have elements that are to the left or right of the mainstream. But I have a hunch that Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law student who demands free contraception, is far less winning for ordinary voters than the Obama campaign fondly imagines.
Here are some reasons I think that the Democrats (along with their supporters in the media) risk showing themselves as desperately out of step with the rest of the country:
In a year when women and men are worried sick about the economy, Code Pink dramatizes the “War on Women” that Democrats say Republicans are waging by showing up in Tampa dressed as vaginas. Call me old-fashioned, but not everybody thinks this is attractive. I don’t know if they are wearing the same outfits to Charlotte, but the message they send is clear. Ed Morrissey sums it up in the Fiscal Times:
The message from the Obama campaign and Democrats in general seems to be that women are somehow incapable of finding birth control on their own unless some paternal entity dispenses it to them, despite all evidence to the contrary. They’re so incapable of this task that employers and schools have to hand it for them, no matter how much income they derive nor how much tuition they manage to pay otherwise. This has already backfired during Team Obama’s “Life of Julia” campaign, which offered a creepy, solitary vision of a woman’s life approaching that of the song “Eleanor Rigby.” Former CNN news anchor Campbell Brown wrote in The New York Times that “Julia” was “a silly and embarrassing caricature based on the assumption that women look to government at every meaningful phase of their lives for help.”
But it’s even worse than that. The strategy segregates women from other issues as if they only have deep concern in this election over the status of their genitalia. This theme came to ludicrous fruition in demonstrations by Code Pink at the Republican convention in Tampa, when activists showed up dressed as gigantic labia. The scene provided an unintentionally revealing portrait of just how progressives see women in modern American society.
I'd just like to pause and note that there has been an alarming amount of vagina-awareness recently among prominent among Democratic women (here and here). This may be important to a certain kind of woman, but I can’t see it playing all that well with—say—senior citizens.
The other thing I think will have limited appeal is the constant insistence that Republicans are racist. The most exotic form of this delusion is MSNBC commentator Lawrence O’Donnell’s off-the-wall charge that Republican mentions of the president’s incessant golfing are racist code: O’Donnell thinks that the GOP is attempting to tie Obama to Tyger Woods and his “lifestyle.”
Both O’Donnell and Code pink may appear delusional. But it must be said that they do represent the way a significant portion of the Democratic base thinks. It is a way of thinking that fails to recognize the essential decency of their intellectual adversaries—and, by extension, of the American public in general.