Fabricating at the Conventions
By Kevin Francfort, Staff Columnist
Published on Wednesday, September 12, 2012
The recently concluded Republican and Democratic National Conventions have stirred up much interest in the presidential race. A few speakers dazzled audiences with their speeches while many others were mediocre at best. There were even a few debacles at the two gatherings that were baffling to witness. But as much as the conventions aimed to make it clear how different the two parties are, the distinguishing aspects of each were remarkably similar to one another. The low points of each convention were marked by ridiculous performances put on by speakers who proved divisive and alienating, while the highlights featured speeches that were both relatable, and honest in nature. It is time for politicians around the country to realize that solutions are what Americans are looking for, not rhetorical falsehoods.
After considering some of the choices of orators made by the Republican and Democratic Party leaders, I wonder how in touch they are with the electorate. This year’s election will be decided by voters looking for a candidate who can provide steady and reliable leadership in the wake of a deep and long recession. But instead of down-to-earth speeches, many of the speakers at the conventions delivered radical and even downright odd addresses. One of the best examples of this may be Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican Convention to an absent President Barack Obama, who was represented by an empty chair. Sprinkled in with this dialogue about Eastwood’s disappointment with the president were astonished responses to imaginary phrases uttered by Obama. Although Eastwood may have hoped otherwise, the whole speech had little effect other than to embarrass the speaker and begin a new fad of talking to empty chairs, called “Eastwooding.” On a similar note, during the Democratic convention former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland expressed eye-raising opinions about presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. The former governor claimed, “If Mitt was Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.” By giving such outlandish and embarrassing performances, these two men likely did little to bring voters to their side. They portrayed themselves and their parties in a bad light by giving such negative and bizarre accounts of the presidential candidates. As more and more Americans declare themselves independents, it would seem advisable for each political party to pursue this large pool of voters with sensible, appealing messages in support of their candidates — quite the opposite of what Eastwood and Strickland did.
Despite these imprudent speeches, there were a few orators who impressed with their honesty and personable manner. These men and women left commentators on both sides of the aisle praising their speeches. The speech delivered by former President Bill Clinton during the Democratic National Convention was the recipient of such accolades. The former president’s address was mostly truthful, engaging and well balanced. By mentioning former Republican presidents for whom he has much respect, he came across as moderate and reasonable. But he also explained in simple detail why he believes Obama should be reelected. He was convincing, largely due to his honesty, and as a result he provided the president with a post-convention bump in the polls. Similarly, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech to the Republican Convention was impressive for its humility and the way in which she seemed to rise above the fray of politics. While so many other Republican speakers criticized Obama, she offered practical ideas and solutions.
The political scene may be growing more divisive in Washington, but the American people’s expectation for honest, reasonable leaders has not changed. Unfortunately there were only a handful of men and women at the two conventions who provided this. It took a former president, who is ineligible for reelection, and a woman disinterested in the presidency to make that point clear. We can only hope that the voters’ desire for honest and personable leaders gets across to our politicians soon. Otherwise they may be out of a job sooner than they would like.