The Republican national convention is underway, and the
next phase of the presidential election has begun.
For those who do not attend one of these national
conventions, but instead are watching it on television, the
event is a Rohrshach test. If the convention is being run
by your political party, you see it in a sympathetic way.
If it’s the other party, you are inclined to see it other than
sympathetically. For partisans, conventions only very rarely
change minds. Many viewers, however, are undecided, and
for these observers, the speeches and coverage of a national
political party convention might make some difference.
I have attended many of the national conventions of both
parties (and even of third parties) since 1988, and I know
first-hand from these experiences over the years that these
political pageants are becoming less and less relevant to
the decision-making of voters. This is primarily due to the
repeated lack of suspense about who will be nominated,
and by the growing disinterest in the propaganda which all
conventions try to convey.
In 2016, however, we are going through a once-in-a-generation
political transformation, a “mutiny of the masses.” In the
case of the Republican Party, it has nominated an unexpected
and flamboyant non-politician, Donald Trump. The GOP
convention, thus, has perhaps a heightened interest, and for
a contrast, it will likely create a heightened interest in the
Democratic convention which will follow it immediately. The
Democrats, during their primary/caucus season, had their
own “mutiny” candidate, Bernie Sanders, but he fell short, and
the liberal party will nominate a long-time and well-known
political figure, Hillary Clinton.
Already, the conservative party convention is breaking
traditional rules, and that is the direct reflection of their
nominee Mr. Trump. While not an experienced politician,
Mr. Trump knows public relations, entertainment and
audiences. The convention in Cleveland shows his imprint.
Most pundits and commentators, while having differing
political views, are used to traditional conventions, and
many, both liberal and conservative, have clearly been taken
aback by Trump innovations and regarded them negatively.
Complicating the response have been a few glaring fumbles,
most notably the convention speech by Mr. Trump’s wife.
Melania, who normally has not given speeches before large
audiences. She nevertheless made graceful remarks that
were well-received by most until it was noticed that a few
passages of what she said were uncannily similar to remarks
Mrs. Obama had made in 2008. Clumsily, the Trump staff
denied the gaffe, and the story became about the Trump staff
and not the speech. Two days later, a Trump speechwriter
admitted she had caused the problem by not checking Mrs.
Obama’s speeches for duplication. Apologizing, she offered to
resign, but Mr. Trump rejected her resignation. If this had
been done the day before, the story would have gone away.
On the other hand, two of the Trump children spoke effectively
on the second day in Cleveland, and GOP effort seemed to have
mostly recovered The convention, and the television audience,
of course, awaits Mr. Trump’s own remarks on the final day,
and then, three day later, the Democratic convention will begin
The Hillary Clinton campaign is expected to conduct a more
traditional, and tightly run convention. Just as the GOP event
has made a strong focus on criticizing Mrs. Clinton’s record and
qualifications to be president, the Democratic nominee and
her convention program will likely make a similar focus on
Mr. Trump who has a far smaller political resume than she has.
Again, the emphasis will be twofold, that is, to inspire the
convention attendees while reaching out to the national
Although the mainstream print and network TV media have a
noticeable liberal bias that usually favors liberal candidates
and policies, there are several large-audience radio talk show
hosts, opinion journalists, and the Fox News Network which
usually favor conservative candidates and policies. In 2016, the
broadcast coverage by the media seems to have tried to
include spokespersons and analysts from both sides, but the
media, from left to right, only gradually seems to be realizing
how different the 2016 campaign has been and is likely yet to be.
Much lies ahead. Mrs. Clinton will name a running mate, and
lead her own convention in Philadelphia. Domestic economic
and international political surprises, almost always more
numerous during a U.S. presidential campaign, will occur.
There will be innumerable polls, many of them contradictory
and, as I have previously argued, likely to be misleading or
inaccurate will be published.
The mutiny of the masses, however, will continue to make
any predictions about the outcome in November premature.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.