I’ve been to a lot of conventions, and there’s always something gratifyingly weird that happens.
But this Democratic convention has a vibe so weird and jittery, so at odds with the early thrilling, fairy dust feel of the Obama revolution, that I had to consult Mike Murphy, the peppery Republican strategist and former McCain guru.
"What is that feeling in the air?" I asked him.
"Submerged hate," he promptly replied. I'm mostly skipping watching the convention - the important speech is tomorrow, when Obama ritually calls upon the Greek gods to favor his campaign (no, really) - on the general principle that this is why they invented YouTube, embedded video links, and pretty much the Internet in general. Anything specifically worth noting can be noted after the fact.
But general stuff is still interesting to me, and from what I'm seeing there's a lot of interesting stuff going on. While individual speeches are getting favorable reviews, Dowd's piece is just one of several that's comes to the conclusion that the Democratic call for Unity... simply isn't happening.
I think that in some ways the Clinton/Obama controversy - my thanks to the Democrats for looking like they're going to be nominating the weaker candidate, by the way; every little bit helps - is more symptomatic of the problem than the problem itself. Conventions are ideological exercises, of course; ideology, a lot of bad stage production, and the potential for a good speech here and there. But what they can also be (and I think that the reason we still have them) are opportunities for Party workers to connect with each other, and reaffirm their affiliation with something larger than the individual. Put baldly like that, it sounds kind of weird - but people like belonging to groups, and for good reason: groups can accomplish things that individuals can't. Assuming, of course, that the group is properly organized and competently led.
Yes, indeed. That last sentence should put a shiver down the spine of any Democrat reading it. It probably does, in fact - only like Dowd they cannot simply go "We are, well, doomed" and move on to Congress. Many of them (again, like Dowd) are probably not even really allowing themselves to think consciously of their problem. Hence the talk of "vibes" and "weird moods." And that's why they've been peculiarly reactionary in this election campaign lately: they may not like where we're going, but at least we know where we're going.
And if we're going somewhere that leads to a Democratic Presidential defeat, well, they have a narrative for that already.
PS: Oh, yes, this isn't a disease exclusively reserved for Democrats: the Republican Party is full of people - including me, by the way - with a long list of Problems We Have With Our Current Candidate. And I fully expect to hear an earful about that next week. But we're not being done unto as we're doing, and that is a epic-level failure on behalf of the Democratic Party, which really should be winning big at this moment.
Let me repeat that. The Democratic Party should be winning big at this moment. Not drifting towards a lee shore, with the sails fouled, and the glass falling.