Political Animal


August 28, 2012 11:23 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

By Ed Kilgore

Well, you can read my impressionistic Live Blog of tonight’s Republican Convention events, but the bottom line is that convention organizers wasted the non-super-prime-times speeches on tired pink meat appeals to the delegates (who didn’t much like them either), then did what they had to do with Ann Romney’s ode to her husband’s loving fanaticism about success, and then Chris Christie’s fiery address about Truth-Telling-and-Tough-Love that was more about himself—and arguably Veep candidate Paul Ryan, whom he mentioned maybe twice—than about Romney.

It was another testament to the fact that Team Romney is determined to present a message that excites the GOP base while appealing to a very specific sliver of swing voters—people who don’t like either candidate but are open to highly emotional appeals aimed at criticizing elites. Christie wants these unhappy people to focus on entitled public-sector unions and anyone who would “pander” by promising to preserve the New Deal/Great Society policy legacy. There’s a large disconnect, of course, since the Romney/Ryan campaign is brazenly promising to defend Medicare recipients from Obama’s horrific desire to give health insurance to, and preserve basic social safety net protections for, those people. But Christie is signalling to “the base” his party’s willingness to touch “third rails,” and expressing a sort of enraged sense of “honesty” to swing voters more resentful towards those people and unions and public employees than concerned about their own reliance on the public sector.

It’s a narrow plank the Republicans are walking so far, but it’s the hand they’ve dealt to themselves.

On a technical level, I’d have to say those speeches that discarded the podium were more effective than those that didn’t. With the exception of the “keynotes,” the speechwriting was pretty bad. But the convention managers don’t really care what’s said and done before Super-Prime-Time.

I’ll be back for more convention fun tomorrow.


Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Kenneth Almquist on August 29, 2012 12:39 AM:

    Ann Romney is no Theresa Heinz Kerry.

    Ann Romney hasn't experienced "the dignity of work," and I wasn't impressed by her attempts to pander to woman who have by making it sound like she was one of them. Her pledge that her husband would work hard for "you" would be a bit more convicing if her husband had demonstrated any clear vision of what he wanted to do. I don't think her speech did any harm to Romney, but I don't see it helping him much.

  • thanks for the live blog on August 29, 2012 1:20 AM:

    Good job Ed and thanks for the comment board.

    I agree with Kenneth that it was pandering and unconvincing. It fell flat because it felt like George W. Bush smoozing to privatize Social Security. I think she knew there may have been a fail--observably when the camera panned to her afterwards, she looked concerned and even a bit down. And if my husband pecked me with such a trivial kiss I would have been mad.

    I think it was a no sell for Chris Christie also--just a bag of gas with a mean look throughout the speech and a known reputation for bullying. He doesn't look like he's been sacrificing anything, but telling us to.

    And the meanness of Gov. Nikki Haley with her enormous ego -- almost masculine in bragging about bullying the unions. South Carolina's schools merit an F grade.

    I think the Republicans are street toughs on steroids.

  • yellowdog on August 29, 2012 5:34 AM:

    Ed - Thanks for sitting through all the nonsense so the rest of us did not have to. This is yeoman service.

    Reading your review and live blog - I am reminded again of what strange, otherworldly territory the GOP has become. It is scary how far gone the party is now. No evidence of independent thought or reasoned argument or common-sense moderation anywhere--just sound and fury. Robert Taft and Dwight Eisenhower and Herbert Hoover must be looking on from above wondering what happened. Even Goldwater and Reagan would be amazed at how far gone the GOP is--how hyper-partisan, corrupt, and mean-spirited it has become, how hermetically sealed ideologically--and then they should feel ashamed for helping begin the party's long, ignoble slide toward carnival barkery.

  • c u n d gulag on August 29, 2012 7:08 AM:

    Though I'm not quite in Krispy Kreme's weight class, since my ass doesn't have it's own area code - yet - I don't have the stomach for watching this kind of display.

    So, thanks, Ed, for watching "Rabid Conservatism" at its very worst, and presenting me with the lowlights.

  • Bernie Latham on August 29, 2012 7:09 AM:

    Let me begin by noting the not-so-curious curious absence of the term "tea party". It was down the memory hole with much else, for a reason.

    "Last evening, the convention speakers and speeches had the pretty obvious goal of history erasure.
    Bush/Cheney and McCain/Palin.... never heard of 'em
    Two unpaid for wars.... whathehell you talkin about?
    "Reagan taught us deficits don't matter".... la la la la
    GOP primary roster... Look... there's a moose in a tutu.
    Fiscal disaster.... Obama!

    Here's a tweet from Ezra...
    "Day one showcased the fact that there's lots of young talent in the GOP right now. But there wasn't a clear and unified case for Romney"

    Other than his wife, it wasn't about Romney. Obviously. It was a concerted effort to rebrand the GOP and conservativism. To paint it as something different from absolutely everything we know it really is. That's what rebranding is or attempts.

    But it is a bit hard to ignore the strange leap-frog aspect here. As disappeared last night as the past has been, Romney was nearly that disappeared as well. The strategy will be to fill that in tonight and tomorrow but what is the filler going to be? A string of raped women who love their babies? Victims of incest who come out dressed like Faye Dunawaye, "She's my daughter, she's my sister, she's my daughter...." Some soldiers missing limbs zesty for a new war on Iran? Sheldon Adelson on how JS Mill argued that the best ideas are suppressed where billionaires don't dominate all other speech? Mitt with more on his hard-scrabble past? Shlafly on how all the earth and biological sciences are cooperating in a Satanic/commie plot to teach evolution?

    Tea Party

    That term has polled really really badly for a couple of years now. It was a rebranding too, of course, but it became evident that it was just a bit of gaudy paint sprayed on the old, angry, spiteful, authoritarian conservative movement. No good anymore.

    Unless we properly understand how all of this is being designed by marketing experts, and it is, we miss what it really going on and why

    They were trying to sell the idea that (as with the tea party) what we are looking at is something new and fresh... not the old stuff.

    So, give us a try. We're new.

  • AMS on August 29, 2012 9:29 AM:

    What strikes me about the Republican message this time around is not only how backward-looking it is, but how punitive it is. Past conventions have whipped up the faithful by pointing to external enemies. Now that Obama has gotten Al Quaeda on the run, the GOP has turned Americans into enemies.This is a party openly running on promises to make millions of their fellow citizens suffer. There is no pretense of trying to unify the country; rather, they are clear that, if elected, their favorite targets of domestic demonization are going to get what's coming to them. Examples: women (limiting reproductive rights, repealing the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act), Latinos (no DREAM act, pushing more Arizona-style immigration laws), gays and lesbians (back to DADT, federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman), public sector union members (weakened or eliminated entirely), government workers whether unionized or not (the prime target of budget cuts), the poor (cuts to Medicaid and food stamps), students and their parents (cuts to Pell grants). I could go on---but I don't see how this is a winning formula.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on August 29, 2012 10:05 AM:

    @ AMS

    I definitely agree, I didn't catch the prime time convention but I saw the early light-weights give speeches earlier. And there was a definitely an aura of "I got mine, you go die in ditch!". There seemed to be a lot of Galtian bloviating about how hard they worked, and that every one else--the mysterious and ubiquitous "they"--is just looking to the government for handouts. A commentator even remarked that unlike Obama's prior campaign message of "shared sacrifice", the GOP was hell bent on sacrificing everyone but themselves to the Gods of "Free Enterprise" ....