Boston, Massachusetts — A dozen generals and admirals underscored the message of the night at the Democratic Convention on Wednesday: John Kerry is a military hero and the best choice for commander-in-chief. Most speakers stressed that message and the delegates roared their approval.
But it was a Black Militant who brought down the house. The Democrats really wanted to have a new face represent Black Democrats — Barack Obama. And, there is no question that Obama earned a place in the constellation of Democratic stars with his keynote address at the convention on Tuesday night. But for sheer crowd appeal, Al Sharpton stole the show. The delegates roared as Sharpton shouted out his disconnected litany of favorite lines from every speech he has ever given. The one getting the loudest, most sustained response was, “I often hear the Republican Party preach about family values, but I can tell them something about family values. Family values don’t just exist for those with two-car garages and retirement plans.”
Outside the convention hall, Kerry crossed Boston Harbor on a city boat surrounded by a dozen fellow Vietnam veterans. Kerry stood at the helm — embodying the image of commander-in-chief — as his former crew members attested to his “character” and told about his “courage under fire.” The scene was picture-perfect and much was made of Kerry’s “heroism.”
No one mentioned that it only took “several months” to complete Kerry’s tour of duty — for which he applied for and received a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.
Every night, speakers at this convention have talked about the extraordinary “unity” of the Democratic Party. One could be forgiven, though, for skepticism. If there is, indeed, unity, it is against Bush. There is a clear determination to cloak their hatred of Bush in lofty-sounding, hopeful speeches while throwing barbs and bombs at the Republicans from underneath the optimism.
For example, in the main speech of Wednesday night, John Edwards, the vice presidential candidate, asked the delegates to “reject tired, old, hateful, negative politics.” He lamented: “They’re [the Republicans] doing all they can to take this campaign for the highest office in the land down the lowest possible road.”
The Democrats are making the Iraq war a linchpin of their attacks against the incumbent president, George W. Bush. Sharpton, for instance, said, “When it became clear [regarding the war in Iraq] that the weapons [of mass destruction] were not there, the president sought to shift the purpose of the war and to challenge our patriotism.”
General John Shalikashvili, who served under the Clinton administration, credited Kerry with being the “first to warn” about the United States’ “dangerous overstretching” of our military. He declared that Kerry would “only” go to war “when all other efforts” had failed and “only” with a “comprehensive” plan for victory. The implication, of course, is that Bush did otherwise.
Political analysts tell us that this election is different from previous ones — that the electorate is polarized as never before into two evenly matched groups of “true believers.” On the Democratic side, voters are still angry because they believe that Bush stole the election in 2000 and they vow never again. They hate Bush with passion and they fear that he will take away abortion-on-demand. An even more deep-seated fear is Bush’s faith. Many Democrats distrust Bush’s evangelical Christianity and fear that it will influence his policy. Sharpton put their fears into focus. “It is frightening,” he said, “to think that the gains of the civil and women’s rights movements of the last century could be reversed if this administration sits in the White House for four more years.”
Sharpton verbalized an even greater fear that a Republican-led government wants to “regulate your behavior in the bedroom.” That’s as close as any speaker came to addressing the “gay” agenda – clearly that special interest group is back “in the closet” for the duration of this convention.
The belief that “Bush lied” is widespread and deeply held. Jesse Jackson boldly called Iraq a war of “mass deception.” Even Teresa Heinz-Kerry, the presidential candidate’s wife, talked about courage in terms of the old feminist slogan, “speaking truth to power.” Heinz-Kerry also echoed the ’60s with her reference to the “Peace Corps” as an example of a good government program. In fact, the many ’60s-type influences give this convention a distinct flavor of aging hippies. The crowd enthusiastically received Peter, Paul and Mary as they sang about “having a hammer” and “bringing justice around the world.”
Another ’60s characteristic is the utopian exaggeration so often expressed. For instance, John Edwards promised that the Kerry-Edwards administration would “say no, forever” to any American working full-time and living in poverty. Edwards ended his speech with an emotional tribute to the soldiers who died or were wounded in Iraq and declared, “We have to restore our respect in the world to bring our allies to us and with us.” The Kerry administration, he said, “will get this done right.”
Indeed, a recurring theme from the podium is “restoring” America’s “respect around the world.” But all the other themes are distant competition when it comes to campaign pins. The winner, hands down, for the most prevalent pin is the red Planned Parenthood “choice” button. It is somewhat unsettling to see elderly male delegates sporting abortion pins. In fact, there really is “unity” in the Democratic Party — they agree that Bush lied, that Bush will take away civil rights and personal liberties, and that Bush will reverse Roe v. Wade.
The intensity of the Bush hatred and the fierceness of the Democratic determination to oust him from the presidency are palpable in Boston’s Fleet Center. Another button reads, “Freedom is the distance between Church and State.”
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse is in Boston and is writing a daily analysis of events at the Democratic National Convention for Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee. She is available for interviews by contacting Rebecca Jones at 202-488-7000 x226.