The political conventions of 2016 are now history. They offer a study in contrasts. Let's take a look at them and see what some of these contrasts might mean.
It was most unusual to observe the absence of many of the major players from the Republican Party at their convention. Former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush were not there. Sen. John McCain as well as host Gov. John Kasich did not attend. The list goes on. Clearly the Republican "establishment" has problems with the candidacy of Donald Trump.
In contrast just about every possible Democratic heavyweight gave a major speech in Philadelphia. Democrats from President Barack Obama to former President Jimmy Carter and everybody in between spoke in support of Hillary Clinton. The Democratic establishment is on board.
It is also true that there is significant dissent in both political parties. For the Republicans it surfaced in the convention speech of Sen. Ted Cruz as well as a failed attempt to change the rules so that delegates could vote their conscience and perhaps stop the Trump candidacy. One thing that can be said is that the Cleveland convention was pretty effective in quashing all dissent.
For Democrats it was the ongoing controversy between Hillary Clinton and some of the Bernie Sanders supporters. Although Sen. Sanders himself worked hard to bring his supporters on board there remained a vocal and recalcitrant group of dissenters. I thought perhaps the low point of the convention was the protest of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's speech when he was trying to explain the gravity of Donald Trump's suggestion that Russia should hack the e-mail server of Hillary Clinton.
I think some of these ardent Sanders supporters still have much to learn about how government and politics works. While the majority of Sanders supporters chose to transfer their support to Secretary Clinton, some did not. That is of course their choice, but their continued protests even during the nominee's acceptance speech on Thursday night were inappropriate. They also do not appear to understand the reality that politics is the art of the possible.
It has also been noted that the Republican convention, especially Trump's acceptance speech, was dark and pessimistic while the Democrats provided a more uplifting view of the country. Usually Democrats are seen as talking too much about what is wrong with America while Republicans are remembered by former President Ronald Reagan's slogan of "Morning in America." This year the usual party roles seem to have been reversed.
The polls suggest Donald Trump got something of a bounce from their convention. We will have to wait several days to see what the results were for the Democrats. While the Democrats had a much better choreographed week than the Republicans, it remains to be seen how it impacted the viewers.
Whatever the polls say we remain more than three months away from Election Day. The presidential debates are still in the future and anything can happen. The state of the campaign can change several times between now and November 8.
A couple of observations can be made. Hillary Clinton made a concerted effort to reach out to moderate Republicans and independents. There is no indication that Donald Trump made any attempt to move beyond the core supporters he already has. He continued to operate as he has since his campaign began. It appears unlikely that he will change his approach to campaigning at this point. This could be a problem for him as the campaign winds on. Even though he has appeared to be able to say anything with no negative impact to his support, there could be a cumulative effect if he continues to make disturbing statements, especially in the realm of national security.
For Hillary Clinton the question of trust remains, and there is a cloud hanging over the campaign in the form of more damaging leaks of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee, and now perhaps from the Clinton campaign computer system itself. We're not sure if the Russian government is involved in crashing our presidential election, and the proverbial October surprise could become a reality.
At the same time, I think the Democratic convention did a good job of showcasing Hillary's competence and validating her with powerful witnesses. Attempts to humanize her were also effective. Will some viewers begin to warm to the Clinton candidacy?
Keep you eye on the polls. In about a week or ten days we are likely to get a meaningful sense of where the election stands at this point. With the Olympics coming up, the election may soon become static for a while, maybe even until Labor Day.
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