Both Parties Go to Extremes
At a time when the two parties usually reach out to grab every swing voter they can woo, this year's conventions were unusually obsessed with firing up the base -- the loyal voters in each party who are most likely to show up on
Past wisdom, as famously described by
Romney promoted his ability as an experienced businessman to fix the economy, but remained hazy on the details of what he would do differently from Obama. But anyone looking for details from the president's big convention speech as to what he would do differently in his second term probably came away as disappointed as I did.
Obama pleased the crowd by ridiculing Republicans for their one-size-fits-all remedy ("Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations and call us in the morning") and their determination to "double down on trickle-down" economics. But his own stated goals to boost manufacturing, energy independence, educational opportunities, national security and deficit reduction also lacked details as to how he would reach them, especially if
Disdain for detail is understandable, I suppose, when the issues are as wonky as joblessness, economics and deficit reduction. A PowerPoint presentation wouldn't go over too well at a political convention. It's much more energizing for both sides to talk about social issues such as reproductive rights, gay marriage and Obama's opening of education opportunities for the children of illegal immigrants -- issues that ignite the bases of both parties to move in opposite directions.
The enthusiasm was understandable. Obama is weak where Clinton is strong, particularly with persuadable older, white blue-collar voters. And Obama offered Clinton a chance to make himself a tough act for anyone, including Obama, to follow.
Both men are outstanding orators, the differences in their style and content were striking. Obama's style is formal. Clinton's is folksy. Obama's lofty, stentorian eloquence calls attention to itself. Clinton's conversational down-home style is transparent -- carefully planned but skillfully sounding off-the-cuff, peppered with ad-libs that play the crowd's mood like a skilled fisherman reeling in a big catch.
The difference called to mind other significant differences in the cultural, political and oratorical backgrounds of these two presidents. Clinton gained national fame as a center-left governor of
As Obama runs for a second term, he could learn a lot from Clinton on how to bridge political divides, not only to win elections but also to get things done afterwards.
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