Just a week after the depressing conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, it’s more clear than ever that the Republic Party is superior in every way when it comes to salesmanship, even if what they’re selling is rat poison dipped in chocolate sauce. With a few exceptions, Joe Biden’s 2020 introduction as the Democratic party nominee was stilted, amateurish, vapid, and worst of all, boring. Conversely, the RNC was a spectacle of machismo and nationalism creatively combined with disturbingly convincing gestures towards inclusion and unity. However hollow the RNC’s messaging was at its core, production values – and looking like you give a shit about what you’re selling – can go a long way with the public, perhaps all the way to a second term.
Despite how fun and energetic the RNC felt at many moments, the Republicans didn’t need to do much to outshine the DNC this cycle. Each bombastic anthem in front of a sea of fan-flapped flags or emotional speech from culture-war victims drowned out the placid tone and general drudgery of the DNC. How could the Democratic party fail so horrifically at what seemed like a slam dunk? Why did countering an incompetently handled pandemic, a crashing economy and an extremely rare impeachment proceeding seem completely out of the DNC’s ability? Sadly, we’ll never know what they could have accomplished, because they didn’t even try.
Instead of appealing to progressive strengths – 70% are in favor of Medicare for All and 63% are in favor of legalized marijuana and pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants – the DNC opted for Republican-light messaging. No popular issues were put in front of the camera in any significant fashion. The strategy was not about closing the wealth gap or ending police brutality, but rather showing moderates and so-called Never-Trump-Republicans that the DNC was now their home. “We’ve got the same politics you’ve always loved but without the shame and sticky fingers,” seemed to be the essential message of the four-day convention.
To highlight this point, the DNC rolled out all the old Republican fallen idols: John Kasich, Colin Powell, Meg Whitman and several other anti-orange conservatives who’s main message was “Say No to Trump.” Even the presidential candidate played a major role in this effort by appearing in an extended post-mortem fellation of John McCain. Imagine trying to make your candidate look better by showing how good of friends he was with his opponent just 12 years prior. Meanwhile, the RNC represents most democrats as near demonic figures out to destroy the very foundations of American life.
Maybe none of these tactics would hurt the DNC if they had any sense of showmanship, but a total lack of enthusiasm for the candidate and overall platform made the convention feel more like a 2 A.M. mesothelioma class action ad than a promotion for the most powerful person on the planet. In the RNC, viewers could understand the stakes of the election even if they could see through the misdirection and smoke screens. But like any rich-flavored dessert void of nutrition, the RNC was best observed in moderation. The nausea could sneak up on you quickly.
After three exciting nights of fun house mirrors and terrifying carnival clowns, the GOP used the final night of their convention to bring out some of their more respectable hitters. Ann Dorn, widow a murder victim, tearfully recollected the night of her husband’s killing, perhaps unaware that she was being used to set up a terrifying depiction of modern “Democratic” cities. Rudy Guliani converted the earned sympathy for this victim into hatred, describing Black Lives Matter protestors as terrorists and blaming every instance of American violence on the left. Guiliani’s depiction of New York City could have made John Carpenter envious. Between the exploitation and post-apocalypic imagery, Ben Carson claimed that abortion was the most potent form of racism in the country. Just as viewers had too much conservative red meat, Ivanka Trump came in to tie a soft bow around the bloody package. Despite some of the contradictory tones, the messaging was emphatic, a characteristic that’s all too often confused with authenticity.
Many Democratic-leaning professionals are against using tactics even remotely similar to the RNC to attract, or scare, voters. The infamous mantra from 2016, “When they go low, we go high,” should be a warning sign, however, not a renewed battle cry. The answer to an intense and aggressive opponent lies not in pacifism or proper decorum. When you want to discredit an adversary who constantly lies, you tell the truth forcefully and with conviction. When you want to counter their fear-mongering, you provide hope and a clear path out of the darkness. Sadly, the DNC gave people no reason to hope for a better future, just a slightly less severe trend towards the abyss that we can all feel pulling us down