The Republican Convention is over. We can all come out from our bunkers and claim back our city, Saint Paul. But what did all the smoke and noise mean? I’ll break it down into parts.
The Republican Message
What I’ve been able to gather so far is that this election is a referendum on Barack Obama. The main message appears to be that Obama isn’t ready to lead and his policies are socialist throwbacks. The only thing substantially new is the idea what we have a whole lotta drillin’ to do, which I doubt is going to be a particularly strong motivating force.
What we’ve heard about McCain is that he’s served our nation, and I won’t argue with that. But being tortured in the name of Old Glory is a double-edged sword. When Mike Huckabee related my favorite detail about McCain – that he can’t lift his arms over his shoulders – I winced. We want an energetic, vital president. McCain has been wounded. I wish Bob Dole had talked more about his service, but he stayed far away from his disability. That’s probably why the talk always went away from McCain and back to what a bad guy Obama is.
My call: In election that’s all about Obama, Obama wins.
The big wild card did very well. What she had to do was establish her mythology, the simple frame that allows us to think about her in a positive light easily. McCain’s mythologies are “War Hero” and “Maverick”, though he’s dropped the latter in recent years. Palin established herself as “Reformer” and “Hockey Mom”, the latter being a lot like the “Mom in Tennis Shoes” that worked for Sen. Patty Murray (OR).
Two personal problems remain for her – she can’t help but talk about the culture war stuff, and she sounds like Roseanne Barr. Both of those will get increasingly annoying. Folks are digging into records in Wasilla and Juneau right now, and there’s a good chance they will uncover something political damaging as well. I don’t think that’s where Palin’s problem lies.
The trick for Democrats is to portray her as a hillbilly without actually saying that word or any word related to it. That’s the anti-mythology which has a good chance of sticking, but it carries the possibility of a backlash against a snooty Eastern Establishment. You have to carefully talk about hunting, teenage pregnancy, abuse of power to advance a family feud, and bootlegging in a way that gets people to hear banjos – but you can’t come out and say it directly. I don’t think today’s bloggers are skilled enough as writers to understand the power of “Show, don’t Tell” to pull this off, however. That means that the most effective anti-Mythology will be very hard to deploy.
My call: Palin will embarrass herself in the debate with Biden, but the Dems will fail to make her into the major liability that they could.
But What About Saint Paul?
The important news from the convention is this: Republican Delegates are reported to be good tippers on average, reporters are about 50/50 at best. A bar owner that I talked with told me that the crowds were about the same as a regular night but they had extra staff AND security costs that they wouldn’t normally have. It was a net loser, just as I predicted some time ago.
I heard some good news about young Republicans. There was a workshop held on organizing, and the report I had was that they were far more civic minded and interested in recruiting Democrats than participating in a culture war. I hope that translate into more civic engagement by the right here in Saint Paul.
We get our city back on Friday, with normal bus service resuming at 6 PM. I can’t wait.
My call: If your city leaders want to hold a convention, do anything you can to stop them. Stop them by any means necessary!
Coming home on the 74 bus today, I saw two kids get on but dressed in black shirts and black shorts. This was “Youth Day” at the protests, where kids were encouraged to skip school and support anarchy. These two looked like the kind of punks that caused a lot of trouble in the last week. I watched them board the bus and listened in carefully as they took a seat alongside an old man. Then, the old guy started talking, and one of them spoke back:
“You kids just get out of school?”
“Where do you go?”
“Do you like it?”
(laughing)”No, sir,” as the other one said, “I really hate school.”
“Well, I never liked it either,” the old guy said, “But I stayed until I graduated. Not everyone did back then.”
“Well, not everyone does now.”
“I suppose not. You have friends who dropped out?”
“Yeah,” as his friend added, “Oh yeah.”
“It’ll be hard to get a job these days if you do. I worked for 45 years at the Ford Plant.”
“Well, sir, that’s not even runnin’ anymore.”
“You’re right there. You know what you want to do after school?”
“No idea” “Nope.”
“That’s gotta be hard. I hope it works out for you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
These kids probably did take place in the protests today which did get ugly at times. But this exchange reminded me that we’ll be back to normal soon.
UPDATE: Got a chance to talk to some kids who were there at the protest. They said that the main march part of it was completely peaceful, and that the cops smiled back when they waved. Yes, we’ve survived this. We are Saint Paul. I really do love it here.