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Dems Agog! The DNC Got No Soul - Al Uthman

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© 2004 The Beast

Dems Agog!

Kerry and Edwards Can't Fake the Funk

By Al Uthman


Democrats 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.

There 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.

But pessimism 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.

There 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.

Of course, 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.

Personally, 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 the Botox.

But more 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.

It’s not 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.

Imagine 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?

They would 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.

Instead, 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.

More salient 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.

The donkeys 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 Kerry.

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 no soul.



 

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