First of all, allow me to admit that I'm biased. (Surprise!) I've been to Tampa for the Republican National Convention and to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention and yes, I have certain biases which colored my observations of the two gatherings.
I have a bias, for instance, toward comedy that's funny. The Clint Eastwood bit reminded us that even though Vaudeville's been dead for many years, there's still a place to be bad. Eastwood had a script. He just went rogue, a strategy that worked so well for the Republicans four years ago. And he warned us, you know. In Paint Your Wagon, he sang "I Talk to the Trees." It was only a matter of time before one of those trees became a chair. Still, though excruciatingly not funny, the bit served as a great metaphor for the convention's agenda: Vilify the Imaginary Enemy.
I'm biased toward facts that are true. Paul Ryan is an AK-47 of lies. He lies with a such pathological glee that even North Koreans are calling him the "Dear Misleader." According to Ryan, he ran a marathon in under three hours, cooked spaghetti in his bare hands and introduced more than two pieces of legislation in his 14 years in Congress. (Mitt Romney, by the way is a Gatling gun of gaffes.)
I'm pro-love. Actually, I'm pro-respect AND pro-love -- take that, Chris Christie! The Republicans talked about love (and flowers and rainbows and horsies) but the biggest applause lines had more to do with punishment.
I have a big bias toward cooperation. Toward community. Toward public solutions to big problems. All of this was anathematic to the Republicans on display. True, one of their themes was "We Built It. By "we" they meant "and not you." Another theme: "We Can Do Better,' an implicit admission that they threw a crappy convention. Otherwise, it was a lot of "them" and "they."
The Democrats used the words "they" and "them" too, of course, but Democrats boast a president who reached across the aisle like no recent president, even Bill Clinton. President Obama spent way too much of his political capital on flowers for John Boehner. But he did it in the pursuit of things I, as a Libra, hold dear: cooperation, community, true understanding and real balance.
And then there's joy. I've been to a few of these conventions now, and if I had to generalize (I don't, but I will) I'd say Republican delegates are intelligent, determined, well-dressed and well-organized. They're having a good time but with an aura of grim purpose. The earnest ones are protecting America against its enemies, real and imagined. The cynical ones are protecting their Swiss bank accounts. There's a longing I sense. A desperate longing for a simpler time, which never actually existed, a phenomenon Piaget referred to as "faux-stalgia," but which I prefer to call, "the Mayberry Syndrome."
I'd characterize Democratic delegates as smart, caring, colorful and almost-as-well-organized. None of them "want to grow government." None of them want to "drive God out of the public square." None of them want to plunge America into a thousand years of darkness (which is my definition of sitting through a Chuck Norris movie). What I sense in the Democratic delegates is joy. That's the main difference. Joy. A joyful acceptance of struggle, and a celebration of hard-won social progress.
Also, some of them have a screw loose.
There is one way in which Republicans are bringing us together. They seem intent on campaigning until everyone in America, regardless of race, creed, color, gender or sexual orientation can't stand Mitt Romney. But again, I'm biased.
There are those who'll tell you there's no difference between the parties. I'll tell you what I've learned:
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