I went to the Democratic National Convention in Denver because I could not help myself. As a lifelong and long-suffering Democrat, I wanted to be present for the making of American history. I heard lots of speeches and talked to lots of people, but on the whole, I thought the DNC was long on policy and spirited critiques of the Bush administration, but graciously short on personal, ad hominem attacks on John McCain.
Contrary to the charge made by Republicans that Barack Obama is all eloquence and no substance, his acceptance speech laid out a laundry list of specific program initiatives, should he become president. He spoke in concrete terms about priorities (cutting taxes on the middle class) and time lines (troops coming home from Iraq in 16 months and freedom from dependence on foreign oil in 10 years). He also spoke at length about a new green economy that must be America's next great challenge.
I watched the Republican National Convention on television for exactly the same reason: I could not help myself. But what I saw and heard and felt was a far cry from what happened in Denver. After lampooning the Democrats for their faux columns as a backdrop at Invesco Field, the Republicans spoke in front of a massive electronic American flag. So in the battle of the gaudy sets, it was perhaps a draw. And the next question is: Who cares?
What astonished me was how much the RNC seemed like a high school pep rally " petulant, petty, arrogant and condescending, the speakers were. After reminding us ad nauseam that eloquence is not substance (because Obama gives "pretty speeches"), they proceeded to drag out all the old, empty, tired, right-wing rhetoric as if Newt Gingrich were still in charge. Former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani led a group taunt on the evil word "liberal." The self-described "pit bull with lipstick," Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin proved that she is, as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd described her, "a comely crackling woman." Palin, McCain's chosen running mate, shamed Obama for having done nothing as a community organizer while she was busy being the mayor of a small town in Alaska, apparently taking orders from God.
After slamming Obama as the most inexperienced man ever to run for president, McCain is suddenly smitten by the most inexperienced woman ever to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. It's not about her pregnant teen daughter, of course, because family scandals are always a "private matter" unless you are a Democrat. Nor is it about eloquence: She made a great speech, but ironically one that gave us no idea what specific policies she would implement to save our country from recession and our soiled reputation around the world. Like all sanctified Republicans, she reeked of moral superiority " what is more elitist than that?
After the Jeremiah Wright scandal forced a public divorce between Obama and his pastor, does anyone know or care that Palin belonged to a Pentecostal church and told a small group in June that the war in Iraq is a messianic affair in which the United States is on a mission from God? Or, that she prays for business deals in Alaska that she supports?
And give former presidential candidate Mitt Romney an "F" for leading the charge for change that would replace a "liberal Washington" with a "conservative Washington." Who do they think has been in charge lately, Al Gore? Did I miss something? The GOP can't claim to be the party of change because it is still doing things the same old way. No matter how bad it gets, Republicans cut taxes on the rich and glorify wars fought by the poor. Heaven help us.
Meyers is minister of Mayflower UCC Church of OKC, and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.