I have watched every Democratic National Convention since 1960. I have written extensively about every convention of both parties since 2004.
This year, I haven’t watched a minute of the Democratic Convention. This isn’t something I’m proud of. As a citizen and writer about politics, I should be watching at least some of the proceedings. I just can’t bring myself to do it.
In lieu of coverage by me, I offer this article by Dan McLaughlin. He focuses on the speeches last night by Barack Obama and Kamala Harris.
McLaughlin finds that Obama upstaged Harris. This seems to be the consensus among those who watched both addresses. It’s not a surprising development.
I don’t doubt that Obama gave an effective speech. I was struck, though, by this passage quoted by McLaughlin:
I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did.
For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves. Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.
I’m sure this sounded good to Democrats and to some who aren’t Democrats. But it is a breathtakingly superficial critique of Trump, as befits his chronically superficial predecessor.
Superficiality can be forgiven in a political speech. However, Obama’s statement doesn’t even ring true. It’s another example of not taking Trump seriously, a mistake that has cost Democrats in the past.
I don’t know how much work Trump is putting into the presidency, and neither does Obama. But he’s clearly using his office to help others.
His economic and domestic policies, like all economic and domestic policies, generate winners and losers. The winners are helped by Trump, and are intended to be.
For example, Trump’s protectionist trade policies, whether or not one agrees with them, help certain industries and their workers. His immigration policies, to the extent they are allowed to be implemented, help certain types of workers and promote public safety. The people these policies help are the ones candidate Trump promised to help.
Even the “jailbreak” criminal sentencing legislation that was enacted thanks to Trump helps some people — the criminals who serve less jail time and perhaps some of their family members.
Trump also helped people through measures he has taken in response to the Wuhan coronavirus. The federal push to produce ventilators, for example, must have saved lives. A number of governors, including Andrew Cuomo, praised Trump for his efforts.
If Democrats want to argue that aspects of Trump’s response have been misguided and that his overall response has been inadequate, that’s fine. But to pretend he has no interest in helping to combat the virus is ridiculous.
As for finding common ground, Trump has been at least as interested in this as Obama ever was. Trump found common ground with Democrats on sentencing reform. Even Van Jones applauded the administration for this.
Trump also tried to find common ground with Dems on DACA reform. Recall his televised meeting with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
Obama never showed interest in finding common ground with Republicans. Sure, many Republicans weren’t interested in working with Obama, just as many Democrats aren’t interested in working with Trump. However, Obama couldn’t even find common ground with Susan Collins on health insurance/care. He rammed through Obamacare without the support of a single GOP Senator.
The Democrats can’t have it both ways on Trump. Either he’s a frivolous guy whose only interest is in calling attention to himself or he’s a serious president who, from the Democrats’ perspective, poses a serious threat because he aggressively pushes policies that have a huge impact on peoples’ lives — the wrong kind, from the Dems’ perspective.
If I were a Democratic politician, I’d be pushing the second view. Maybe other speakers at the Convention are doing so. I don’t know, because I’m not watching.
Transcript of Obama’s speech here. Transcript of Harris’ here.