Monday, August 1, 2016

Repairs and improvements at the DNC - Prof. Abraham Ben Zvi

by Prof. Abraham Ben Zvi

Obama chose the Philadelphia stage as a platform to get even with the real estate baron who is threatening to erase his legacy from the country's collective memory.

At first glance, the Democratic National Convention did not differ from the accepted tradition at such gatherings. Indeed, after the faltering opening, which was overshadowed by the exposure of the attempts by the Democratic establishment (working as a satellite of Hillary Clinton) to obstruct and attack the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, things calmed down. The latter's decision to quell the flames and endorse Clinton, even after it became clear that she had used tactics straight out of former President Richard Nixon's playbook against him, brought comparative quiet to the convention hall. 

The Philadelphia convention turned into an honor guard in which marched a gallery of past and present political leaders, decorated retired military officials, and of course, celebrities. They all sang the praises of the Democratic nominee and her astounding sensitivity to the troubles of the weaker socioeconomic sectors. All this, while glossing over her close ties to the business and finance elite of New York. At the same time, the speakers excoriated the positions, temperament, and style of their opponent, Donald Trump, and ridiculed his plan to restore America to greatness. 

The attempt to turn the party convention into a synthetic, cloying PR clip about Clinton is a regular feature of party conferences of this type, but this time we could discern a slight variation. First, the attempts by the speakers -- mostly President Barack Obama himself -- to deny or minimize the question of Clinton's trustworthiness, which was the Democratic elephant in the room, were artificial and absurd. Obama, for example, did "address" that Achilles heel, but only in the context of the dynamic of making decisions, in which the people involved (including him) cannot always guarantee their success, and not in the specific context of the nominee's manipulative, twisted path in public life, which goes back to the distant Arkansas days. 

Second, while it's true that in both the near and distant past the sitting president has taken an active role in his party's convention, when we're talking about the leader of a nation who is about to leave office, he could be expected to appear as a statesman who represents the values of the entire nation, and not as a regular politician who stops at nothing to slander his enemy. But despite that deeply rooted tradition, Obama chose the Philadelphia stage as a platform to get even with the real estate baron who is threatening to erase his legacy from the country's collective memory. In referring to Trump as a combative, divisive demagogue, Obama cast off any signs of presidential conduct and turned into a businessman. 

And what about Clinton herself? The essence of her acceptance speech was intended to function as self-criticism and present the public with an improved, more attractive calling card. And she was indeed articulate and full of optimism about her ability to heal the schisms in American society, which is being forced to confront Islamic terrorism, economic troubles and serious violence in its own backyard. In the best political tradition, the Philadelphia convention, which -- except for its first day -- was conducted as a well-oiled Hollywood production, checked the recent anti-Clinton tide in the polls. The last poll roundup, which came out at the end of the convention, reflected that and indicated that Clinton and Trump were polling even. A new Reuters poll that asked respondents about the four remaining candidates, including Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, showed exactly the same result. However, another poll by the news agency that focused on Trump and Clinton only gave Clinton a 6% lead over her opponent.

All that remains is to wait and see if the new momentum will carry Clinton to victory, despite the promise of her opponent to take off the gloves, or whether the question about her trustworthiness, which was swept under the rug in Philadelphia, will continue to hamper her until Nov. 8.

Prof. Abraham Ben Zvi


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