With October comes the much-anticipated debate season for our presidential hopefuls. But before the candidates begin their pulling-out-all-of-the-stops and finish-strong tactics for the final month of campaign season, let’s take a quick look at the effects of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and Republican National Convention (RNC) on the public.
The DNC and the RNC received a great deal of publicity this year, which is good. Friends I didn’t know paid attention to politics came up to me to exclaim things like, “Did you see Michelle’s speech last night?!” I was impressed; I am glad to see more people from my age bracket expressing an interest in where our country is headed.
However, I then became troubled by this. The problem, which lies not with those individuals but with our national media as a whole, is that the actual platforms drafted at these conventions matter less and less every election cycle. The policy takes a backseat to the speeches, celebrity endorsements and the bells and whistles.
Why wasn’t it a bigger deal when Democrats were caught with egg on their face because they realized it was political suicide (at least in American politics) to fail to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Simply put: because there were more entertaining things to pay attention to, that the media would rather focus on. After all, Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair all night, Michelle Obama made everyone tear up and Chris Christie made the mistake of thinking he was at his own 2016 presidential campaign fundraiser.
Pardon my digression. Point is: the bells and whistles do matter in the eyes of the American public, and they’ve had a significant impact on polls this year particularly. In the week following this 2012 convention, a Gallup poll concluded that President Obama opened a four-point lead against Governor Romney. While the RNC didn’t hurt Romney, it didn’t appear to do anything for him either.
Democrats worked hard to drive home the point that four more years were needed to get the job done. Obama’s DNC success had a lot to do with the consistency of the overall message. At the conclusion of the DNC, people who had followed even minimally came away with the following: choice and four more years. The RNC on the other hand, left viewers confused, mostly. And the RNC platform was far more consistent than that of Democrats, the presentation was just not there.
Both of the candidates seemed to be outshined by others, but while Romney was being overshadowed by Clint Eastwood’s empty chair, Obama was having the same done by Bill Clinton, one of the most popular presidents in history. (I would much rather have one of these than the other option). Despite the fact that both Romney and Obama’s speeches were underwhelming, the other DNC speakers stuck to the consistent DNC message and delivered accordingly.
See, the Democrats’ strategy was calculated and helped drive home “choice.” If nothing else, it was consistent. The same cannot be said for the Republicans. One of the best examples can be seen by looking at Michelle Obama’s speech versus Ann Romney’s.
Whether you like her or not, there is something to be said for the artful way in which the First Lady was able to connect Obama’s image as a father figure and ideal husband back to explanations for policy decisions. Ann Romney failed to do this, and not because her message of “love” and attempts to humanize her husband were misplaced, but because her speech seemed to serve as the direct antithesis to Chris Christie’s message of “respect over love” and “Christie 2016.”
The overall take-away from the conventions: consistency over substance. This is not to say that Republicans lacked a message at all and Democrats completely failed in the platform portion, but that certain strengths can certainly give you a leg up in the world of campaigning. Looks like there is definitely something to be said for leaving viewers with an easily digestible, coherent and comprehensive message to associate with the candidate.