Sometimes I Fantasize That I’m A Republican

It’s true. At election time I fantasize about what it must be like to be a Republican. The Republicans’ National Convention will be as predictable, stale and colorless as a low-fat muffin from Starbucks, but in some ways that is what will make it beautiful. When the RNC begins, you can bet that every delegate will be on the same page, of which there will be only one.

Contrast that with what I heard on Washington Journal this morning from two Clinton supporters, both women and delegates to the Democratic Convention. They will support Obama in November but want the opportunity to cast their vote for Clinton at the convention. One of the Clinton supporters said something like, “That’s what the convention is for. It is an opportunity for us to vote and express ourselves.” (Sigh.)

I love Washington Journal because random Americans call in to the guests and you never know what you’re going to hear. One guy called to say, “I don’t get it. The convention is like the Super Bowl. The coach is putting players on the field and these people think this is the time to change quarterbacks?”

And there you have them, the two diverging points of view: convention as “self-expression” vs. “full-on game.” That split in thinking is what causes Democrats to limp around at election time.

I’m all for self-expression, but I believe selecting the quarterback is what the primaries are for. In these days of ubiquitous public television coverage, the convention is for presenting the package, a carefully selected and beautifully wrapped package for America’s voters to use to make their decision in November. Republicans totally get this. You’ll never see them airing their dirty laundry on national television unless Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi is standing at the door with a cut hickory switch.

The candidates get precious few opportunities to hammer election messages home to the public. They have the convention, the debates and whatever visits to constituents they can squeeze in before November 4th. That’s it. The rest is spin. I hate to see some Democrats waste a tank of oxygen whining about how democracy didn’t go their way instead of getting behind their candidate, whose policy positions are much closer to their preferred candidate’s than McCain’s! As my friend Jackie said to me last night, it’s time for Clinton’s supporters to put on their big girl panties and move on.

I understand why Republicans and Democrats see the nature of conventions differently. The key lies in the Democrats embracing of feminist ideals. What do I mean by feminist ideals? I mean the valuing of multiple points of view and dialogue with folks who are traditionally kept in the margins (women, ethnic minorities, working class, gay people, etc.). In fact, the reason I’m a Democrat is because of my party’s willingness to champion the rights and voices of the hard working but less economically powerful, and not just the “I’ve got mine” crowd.

But there is a time and place for debate. The convention is neither. Obama is our candidate. Yes, he needs to introduce himself to the world at the convention. Yes, he needs to talk to a lot of different people, especially to reasonable Clinton supporters. Yes, he needs to speak specifically about his policies and plans (though there is no excuse for Clinton supporters not to know that stuff already. Obama’s website gives you a good idea of what he is about, and it should look very familiar).

Obama will do all of these things very well because he is disciplined, organized and running a near perfect campaign. He knows how to get people who disagree working together in the same room. It’s one of his strengths and it will serve the American people well. I guess I can view the convention as an opportunity to show America how he works.

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