Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention

Democrats Told a Story. The GOP Didn’t Try.
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Sept. 6 2012 10:51 PM

Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention


The Democrats know how to put on a better convention.

Dancing in the aisles on the final day of the Democratic National Convention.
Dancing in the aisles on the final day of the Democratic National Convention.

Richard Kalvar/Magnum Photos for Slate.

As we approach the end of two weeks together, I’ll start the
 conversation: The Democrats know how to put on a better convention.
 And I’ll cite an unexpected piece of evidence: Charlie Crist’s speech.

Sasha Issenberg Sasha Issenberg

Sasha Issenberg is the author of The Victory Lab about the new science of political campaigns.

Last week I asked if there was any way for anyone to successfully play
 the convention apostate without exposing the opportunist inevitably
 hiding beneath the surface. Artur Davis clearly failed the test in 
Tampa: He attacked Obama and Democrats with the zeal of the most
 craven convert. He sounded like any angry Obama-hating Republican.

He didn’t tell a story of how he got from there to here, even though
 the fact that he had made that migration was the only reason he was on 
stage at all.


Crist began with the tiresome “the party left me” bit, but actually
 told it as a story. He explained why he supported the stimulus when
 others in his party didn’t. (It wasn’t necessarily a moment of great
 courage, just that Crist was oblivious to the opprobrium that would 
come, to him and the bill he endorsed.) He talked about the hug with
 which he greeted Obama when the new president came to the state, an
 image that became conservative critics’ favorite symbol of Crist’s
 accommodationism. “That hug caused me more grief from my former party 
than you can ever imagine,” he said.

The speech was dour by the standards of the usually sunny Crist. There
 was none of the fury that has become the signature of Davis’ attacks 
on his former party.  And he started off with a necessary concession,
 but one that made him a plausible narrator: “I’ll be honest with you,
 I don’t agree with President Obama about everything.”

The speech was unremarkable but dutiful. Here was a liberal former
 Republican testifying to his personal experience with what Bill
 Clinton and other speakers have argued throughout the week: that
 Republicans had lost their way. Nothing he said is likely to make
 news on its own, but it offered detail and example to buttress one of
 the week’s recurring secondary themes. Its speaker made one point for
 which he was uniquely qualified, and he nailed the tone.

I speculated earlier in the week that the incoherence of Tampa may 
have been tactical. If breaking a convention into a lot of
 unconnected nuggets is the tactic, Democrats aren’t going along.
 They’ve tried to tell a story, and the secondary characters played
 their roles.


Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.


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