and Edwards Can't Fake the Funk
can’t dance. That’s the first and most lasting impression I derived from
watching the majority of the Democratic National Convention last week.
Well, to be fair, they did dance, or at least they tried. I guess I
never noticed their lack of rhythm before because never before had I
seen a Party Convention with such good music. It was excruciating, really,
to watch a crowd of dumpy delegates from the Midwest rock back and forth
erratically, clapping out of time to diversity-emphasizing funk, soul,
and disco from the likes of James Brown, Ray Charles, and, of course,
Sisters Sledge. To my mind, the music choices backfired, only serving
to contrast the painful whiteness of most of the delegates—even the
black ones. Their lack of soul was apparent in their movements, as well
as their oratory.
was a lot of dancing going on in that department—the old centrist shuffle.
The thoroughly vetted speakers were full of promises of hope, optimism,
and positivity, obviously reacting to the “pessimist” label the GOP
has been trying to hang on Kerry. The only real departures from that
tone were Al Sharpton’s inspired and inspiring off-script rabblerousing
rant, which instantly elevated his status as a viable leader and conduit
for black frustration, and the nominees’ promises to beef up the military
and “destroy” the terrorists, an attempt to persuade precious swing
voters against the carefully cultivated perception that they are soft
on the evil-doers.
is, along with outrage, the only appropriate response to current political
and economic conditions. Anyone who can take a good look at the direction
this country is headed in, financially, legally, or ideologically, and
feel optimistic is either retarded or chock full of Valium.
were some good speeches, full of appealing promises. Aside from Sharpton’s
balls-out bitch session, for which our pathetically pussified media
immediately reprimanded him, there was Bill Clinton, who reminded us
what it was like to have an eloquent speaker to vote for. Clinton’s
self-deprecating charm and ability to put forth a simple, coherent argument
did more for the Democratic ticket than a thousand hours of Kerry’s
canned, uncomfortable platitudes. John Kerry would never have the guts
to refer to Bush’s surplus-evisceration as “my tax cut,” nor would he
have had the flair to pull it off. Similarly, Clinton’s portrayal of
Bush and Cheney as draft-dodgers wouldn’t have stuck so well had he
not included himself among their ranks.
Bill has little to lose these days, and he could have minimized his
own scandals had he simply gotten out front of them right away in the
same manner. Had he simply admitted to inhaling, as Al Gore once did,
or to his extramarital dalliances, he could easily have defanged his
critics long before they really put the hurt on him. The American people
are willing to forgive pretty much anything, as long as you’re straight
with them. Kerry could learn from this, were he not desperately afraid
to alienate a single voter.
the only things I like about Kerry are exactly the issues he wishes
to sweep under the rug. First of all, I find it somewhat heartening
that he seems so uncomfortable delivering cheesy, insipid lines about
his family, designed to enhance his “humanity” in the eyes of slack-jawed
swing state TV junkies. His forced smile says it all—or maybe that’s
than anything, it’s the one aspect of his history no speaker would touch
with a ten-foot bayonet at the convention: his outspoken opposition
to the Vietnam War. The way I see it, this is the one compelling argument
that Kerry is, or at least was, someone with the character to take an
unpopular stand on an issue that really matters, someone who once gave
a shit about something. Back in the day, he admitted to committing war
crimes at the behest of his command superiors, and called out the obvious
pointlessness of the conflict.
hard to figure out why the Dems don’t want to touch this issue. It’s
something that the GOP wants to use against them. But this is just what’s
wrong with the way the Democrats have been handling themselves. It’s
a given that Karl Rove, desperate for an angle, will attack Kerry on
his “anti-American” history. By not addressing it, the Democrats didn’t
only delay the inevitable; they lost their chance to redefine the debate.
if, instead of hoping everyone would just forget Kerry’s protest era,
they emphasized it. Imagine if one of the repetitive themes throughout
the event was that Kerry had not only the grit to volunteer for the
war, but also the sheer courage and honesty to come back and admit it
was wrong, to shout it in the face of violent criticism. What if, while
they had the nation’s undivided attention, the Democrats had the courage
to point out that the Vietnam War is by now regarded by the majority
of Americans to have been a colossal mistake, and to cast Kerry’s early
criticism of it as visionary, rather than embarrassing? Furthermore,
what if they drew the obvious parallel to the war in Iraq, which is
already regarded as another colossal mistake by most Americans?
own the issue by now. The message would not only resonate with most
of us; its boldness would impress us. The Republicans would be reeling,
scrambling to counter such a strong and logical position. Eventually,
they might even shut up about it.
we are treated to a nauseating whitewash of Kerry’s history, complete
with a military salute and more warmongering. This stuff isn’t coming
in response to Democrats; it’s all about positioning. Kerry’s people
know that the antiwar vote is his anyway, so they can rattle their sabers
all they want in the hope of attracting a few bloodthirsty former Bush
voters. But the effect of accenting his military service and omitting
his brief flirtation with his conscience makes it clear that there is
nothing left of Kerry’s principles, that he is done giving a shit.
to our present predicament, his grating “help is on the way” chant only
begs the question: where the hell were Kerry and Edwards when we really
could have used their help? While the war and the Patriot Act were targets
of universal condemnation last week, nearly all of the speakers, including
the “optimistic” nominees, voted for them. This, again, shows the difference
between the young, righteous Kerry and his old, spineless doppelganger.
These guys are Senators, after all, not exactly powerless to effect
change or at least stir debate. But, faced with the prospect of taking
an unpopular stand in the face of harsh criticism, the new John Kerry,
and his fresh-faced new sidekick, chose the path of least resistance.
have the upper hand this election season, largely due to the fact that
they’re running against the moral equivalent of serial killers. Bush’s
indefensible record is only underscored by his own insanely hypocritical
new slogan, “results matter.” Even a cursory scan of Bush’s “results”
yields very little doubt as to the necessity of his defeat, but it’s
pretty damn depressing that this is the only compelling reason to choose
The Democrats’ stated platform contains
encouraging policies, from better health care to rolling back tax cuts
for oligarchs. But politicians make all kinds of promises to get elected.
How much of Kerry and Edwards’ rhetoric will turn out to be bullshit?
I don’t know, but watching their political prevarication last week only
made one thing clear to me: they do a lot of dancing, but they have