Two conventions, two scripts, one charade for voters

The Republican and Democrat conventions were glitzy ad campaigns to lure voters in November. To that end, the rhetoric of both claimed huge divides between them. But in the real world, most of their differences are cosmetic or matters of degree, not essence.

Take the Republicans — please! The GOP convention’s oft-chanted slogan was, “We built it!” — without government help, of course. A highlight was VP candidate Paul Ryan’s well-publicized lies accusing Obama either of things he didn’t do, or things that Ryan had also done.

Romney said, “This president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office.” But he didn’t happen to acknowledge that the depression started under Bush. He stressed the need for jobs, but failed to propose any programs to create some. A prominently displayed National Debt Clock conveniently ignored that it was Bush who first took the deficit into the stratosphere. Condoleezza Rice intoned, “We stand for free peoples and free markets,” as though the two are the same.

The Republican platform had brazen planks against gay marriage and reproductive rights from abortion to contraception. It called for privatization of Medicare, and even more inhumane measures against immigrant residents. Not surprisingly, the GOP hall was filled almost exclusively with white faces.

Democrat sleight-of-hand. This convention had many more people of color, unionists, and women of reproductive rights persuasion. But, like the Republicans, neither the main act nor the backup singers offered any specific proposals.

Obama and crew stressed repeatedly that the two parties have “two fundamentally different visions for the future.” The platform endorsed reproductive rights and gay marriage, civil liberties, and “responsibly” ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It advocated immigration reform and “putting Americans back to work.”

But most of these fine-sounding words are just that. The Democrat Party quickly made deals to limit abortion access to get the healthcare act passed. Obama only discovered gay marriage this election season. The deficit-busting military budget isn’t shrinking one iota. And Obama forced more immigrants out of the country than Bush did.

Somehow, indefinite detention without trial and assassinations from unpiloted drones, speak louder than promises to honor civil liberties. Other than a passing note of “tolerance and equality,” the party platform contained no reference to racist discrimination. It had no actual job-creating programs.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors. The location of the Democrat convention was a dead give-away. Charlotte is the Wall Street of the South. And North Carolina is a right-to-work state; it bans collective bargaining for public workers, and boasts the lowest union membership in the country. A state constitutional amendment passed last March outlaws same-sex marriage.

This blatantly anti-union location propelled 13 AFL-CIO unions to boycott. Others reduced their financial support. Regional unions organized a Southern Workers Assembly the day before the convention (on Labor Day) to “organize around our own working class needs and struggles for independent political action” and “against the South’s legacy of Jim Crow laws, anti-immigrant scapegoating and racism.”

Despite social positions that cater to different constituencies, the parties are nearly twins on economic, military and environmental issues. And both were happy to take nearly 136 million taxpayer dollars to help pay for their Hollywood-style extravaganzas.

By Megan Cornish
Freedom Socialist, October-November 2012, Volume 33, No. 5