The most fundamental difference in how Democrats and Republicans view middle class Americans revealed itself inadvertently in speeches during the second night of the convention in Denver.
The keynote speaker, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, started it, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, kept it up - that talk of the future. Future this, future that.
"This race is all about the future," Warner said.
"This is a fight for the future," Clinton said.
Then they spoke of how they believe middle class Americans are capable of making that future great, of meeting any challenge, in science, in commerce, in battle.
"We need leaders once again who can tap into that special blend of American confidence and optimism that has enabled generations before us to meet our toughest challenges, leaders who can help us show ourselves and the world that, with our ingenuity, creativity and innovative spirit, there are no limits to what is possible in America," Clinton told a roaring crowd.
This stands in stark contrast with the Republican view of the middle class as extolled by their beloved Ronald Reagan and embraced by the party since, including presumptive Republican nominee John McCain who refers to Reagan with a certain slathering hero worship. Under Royal Reagan economic policy, government assists Republicans in amassing fortunes.
And, theoretically, any leftovers trickle down on the middle class. In other words, the middle class is something to be trickled on.
Since the Reagan administration, the rich did, in fact, get richer in this country, but trickle down hasn't worked so well for the middle class. Especially in the past eight years. Between 2000 and 2007, median income for working age households fell $2,176. During the Bush Administration, an additional 7.2 million Americans became uninsured. Unemployment, inflation and foreclosures are all rising at alarming rates.
Yet, John McCain, a man whose wealth is estimated at $100 million, had this to say in April about economic progress since Bush took office: "I think if you look at the overall record and millions of jobs have been created... you can make an argument that there's been great progress economically over that period of time." McCain also contended that a lot of economic problems were "psychological" and that the "fundamentals of this economy are strong."
That view of the middle class illustrates disdain. And maybe that's because it comes from people who never lived a middle class life - think Bush - never wanted to - think McCain - and never sympathized or even empathized with it.
That is certainly not true of the Democrats running for president. The vice presidential nominee, Sen. Joe Biden, came from a working class family and remains one of the poorest members of the Senate. And Sen. Barack Obama was raised by a single mother who, at times, was forced to rely on food stamps.
They know what it is to struggle. They know what it is to overcome. As a result, they believe we all can do it.
And that is what Clinton and Warner were talking about - that basic belief in the power of the middle class to seize the future - if given true opportunity and inspiration by their leaders in government.
The Democrats chose Warner, who founded a high-tech firm, the company that would become Nextel, before entering politics, to be their keynote speaker. The party whose candidate announced his vice president by text message went with someone who spent his career looking forward.
Both Warner and Clinton said resolving the difficult problems left behind by the Bush administration won't be easy. "Progress never is," Clinton said.
But, she warned, progress won't be made by trying to use the same tired old fixes, like off shore drilling, to solve our problems. That's a McSame solution, she said.
It is nothing but a reach back to the past from a 71-year old politician who admits he never bothered to learn how to use the internet: McCain.
The promise of Obama is a future that contains both renewable energy and the green jobs that it creates, Clinton pointed out. Those are jobs that struggling middle class families could use in these tough economic times. Democrats understand that.
The difference between Obama and McCain is the difference between hope for the future and continuing to be trickled on.
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