Insert Comma logo
Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
Courting the constituency

Noteworthy 2004 DNC wedded to happily every after

By Leigh E. Rich

Now that the biodegradable balloons have been dropped and the recycled confetti has been tossed like rice at the happy couple, there is no doubt the Democrats hope for a happy honeymoon. And they just might get it.

With the seats all empty and the roadies taking the stage, the Democratic National Convention may have ended—packing for the campaign trail and making way for the coming Republican gathering in New York—but the courtship for the White House is far from over.

Since national political conventions are so scripted these days, planned down to the corsage with the fervor of Martin Short’s Franck Eggelhoffer in Father of the Bride, it may come as no surprise that the 2004 Democratic convention ended with neither, ahem, a bang nor a whimper.

This wasn’t always the case. According to the Gallup News Service, post-convention bounces since 1950 have averaged seven points among registered voters in a candidate’s favor.

Not so for John Kerry. In a two-way race between the Democrats and the Republicans, a post-Democratic convention CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll shows only a 1 percent jump for Kerry among registered voters and a 2 percent decline among likely voters. In a three-way race including independent candidate Ralph Nader, Kerry remained steady with registered voters and decreased 1 percent with likely voters. Bush gained 4 percent and Nader dropped 2 percent with both polled groups.

Newsweek’s postmortem poll, on the other hand, showed a four-point bounce in Kerry’s favor.

But this presidential race to the White House may not be typical. In a recent Gallup article, Editor Frank Newport suggested that because there are significantly less persuadable voters than in the 2000 election, more voters intensely following the campaigns than before, and limited network television coverage of the conventions, this presidential competition is all stability and no surprise.

Experts predict the Republican National Convention at the end of this month will likely be more of the same—with no real bumps in George W. Bush’s numbers, either. And it seems no matter what the 1,000-plus sample of Americans are queried on—whether Iraq, international diplomacy or domestic issues—the two major candidates remain practically neck-and-neck, keeping this a tight match.

In the end, both parties’ conventions may only serve as vehicles for the candidates to reiterate their unwavering messages one more time.

Still, the world was watching last week and the 2004 Democratic National Convention was nothing if not a success.

Certain moments were perhaps more memorable than others, and below is The Statesman’s take on what the pundits will be talking about in the months—and future presidential elections—to come.

If only we could send him: Bill Clinton’s rousing primetime speech on the opening night of the convention gave many pause for thought about revamping the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bars any one person from being elected to the highest office more than twice or serving as POTUS for more than 10 consecutive years.

Clinton graciously and charismatically fell on the sword for the Democrats, poking fun at Bush’s tax cuts for America’s wealthiest—an income bracket that now includes the 42nd president—and picking on Bush and Cheney’s service records during Vietnam.

“During the Vietnam War,” Clinton pointed fingers at the current administration, “many young men—including the current president, the vice president and me—could have gone to Vietnam but didn’t. John Kerry came from a privileged background and could have avoided it, too. Instead he said, send me.”

Perhaps Clinton could sneak under the radar of the 12th Amendment and end up vice president some day? We’ll never know unless it happens, and then the true meaning of the 12th would be left for the courts to decide.

Bittersweet banter: Former vice president—and for some, rightful 2000 commander in chief—Al Gore and 2004 hopeful Howard Dean tipped their hats to Kerry while acknowledging the short end of the election sticks they’ve received as consolation prizes.

Gore, who’s likely lost four years of sleep “recounting sheep,” candidly told his fellow Democrats, “I had hoped to be back here this week under different circumstances, running for reelection. But you know that old saying: You win some, you lose some. And then there’s that little-known third category.”

“I was hoping for a reception like this,” Dean also joked. “I was just hoping that it would be on Thursday night, instead of Tuesday.”

I would be great in 2008: It’s not really what she said but rather how she said it. Hillary Clinton’s introduction of her husband had more vim and verve than a high school pep squad, and while she cheered for Kerry, her pom-poms spelled out a not-so-coquettish ploy for the next Democratic nomination.

“Tonight, I have the pleasure of introducing the last great Democratic president,” Sen. Clinton rooted. “But first I want to say a few words about the next Democratic president.”

She did say John Kerry, right?

Attacking the attackers: Though the Democrats have mainly played to the positive in their messages and addresses, a passive-aggressive slight sneaked in every now and again.

Jimmy Carter wasn’t so subtle in his send-off speech, practically calling the current commander a liar.

Referring to previous Democratic presidents, Carter said, “We also were sure that these presidents would not mislead us when it came to issues involving our nation’s security. … Truth is the foundation of our global leadership, but our credibility has been shattered. … And, finally, in the world at large we cannot lead if our leaders mislead.”

Even the amiable and charmingly boyish John Edwards managed to jab at the brother of Jeb.

“They are doing all they can,” Edwards said of Bush and Cheney, “to take this campaign for the highest office in the land down the lowest possible road.”

While Kerry and Edwards have managed to avoid traveling the rutted negative campaign trail, they may still have some mud on their boots.

The other JFK: Even though several of John F. Kennedy’s relatives spoke at the Dems’ 2004 convention, the best pander to the similarities between John F. Kerry and his political hero came from Madeleine Albright.

“Forty-four years ago,” the former secretary of state said, “during a time of grave danger, in an election that altered the course of history, I cast my first ballot to help put a courageous senator from Massachusetts in the White House. This fall, I look forward to repeating that experience.”

From JFK to THK: There is no doubt, if Kerry and Edwards take the White House this year, that Teresa Heinz Kerry will bear the brunt of late-night talk show jokes.

She’s already being lambasted for telling a reporter to “shove it” and for publicly disconnecting four-year-old Jack Edwards’ thumb from mouth. And at the July 23 Kerry-Edwards rally at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium, she half-jokingly admonished a supporter.

When the Edwards fan cheered on “the next vice president of the United States,” interrupting THK’s measured thoughts on the issues, she strongly advised the chatterer to “wait.”

THK’s presence was equally consuming on Tuesday night of the Democratic National Convention. Rather than rally the ranks with an intimate anecdote of her second husband, she spoke to concerns of minorities and women.

“I have a very personal feeling about how special America is,” the immigrant heiress said, “and I know how precious freedom is. It is a sacred gift, sanctified by those who have lived it and those who have died defending it. My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called ‘opinionated,’ is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish.”

So, too, do Jay Leno and David Letterman.

But the better question, if both of THK’s “Johnnie-be-goods” get the job, will be: What, oh what, will Michael Moore do without George W. around?

MIA from the battlefield: It was odd no one spoke of the next White House as the administration that could overhaul the U.S. Supreme Court, with as many as four justices potentially retiring—or leaving under less agreeable circumstances—in the next four years.

With the Bush v. Gore case and the 2000 election fiasco lingering in the collective conscience, this would seem to merit some mention in the melee.

Closer to home, Tom Daschle’s speech was miles away from Mike Miles, who is up against Ken Salazar in next week’s primary.

“America can do better,” Daschle reprimanded. “And we will—with President Kerry and Vice President Edwards. And I pledge, as the next majority leader of the U.S. Senate: We will get America back on the right track. On Nov. 2, Democrats will take back the Senate, with Barack Obama, Tony Knowles, Ken Salazar, Inez Tannenbaum, Erskine Bowles, Brad Carson, and all our newly elected Democratic senators.”

We’re pretty certain Miles—who stunned the Colorado Democratic assembly in May with a victory over Salazar—remains viable at least until Tuesday.

C’mon, Tom. You can do better.

Tagging opponents with a tag line: What has the world come to when Al Sharpton starts to make sense?

Going long beyond his six-minute allotted slot—unintentionally forcing Edwards to double-time his acceptance speech later Wednesday night—Sharpton received a standing ovation for his amusing oratory.

Though many liked his call for an American government that does not seek to regulate behavior in the bedroom but rather guarantee rights in the kitchen, chants and cheers resounded nationwide when the good reverend told delegates that the Democrats have not disfranchised African-American voters.

“We didn’t get the (40 acres and) mule” as promised in Civil War reforms, Sharpton said, “so we decided we’d ride this donkey as far as it would take us.”

Rich, L. E. (2004, Special DNC Issue). Courting the constituency: Noteworthy 2004 DNC wedded to happily every after. The Colorado Statesman, pp. 7–8.

Second Place – Government and Political Writing – Colorado Press Women – May 2005

Comments are closed.