Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention

The Democrats Are Going To Rev Up Their Base in Charlotte
Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Sept. 4 2012 2:38 PM

Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention

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Get ready for the Democrats to parade their ideological allies across the stage.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Gentlemen,

Now that we've seen the convention schedule, we better know what the Democrats are trying to tell us. There were no notable conservative or Tea Party leaders onstage in Tampa—the closest we got was Ted Cruz, who is not yet a senator (he will be soon), and who is beloved by both the secular Tea and Teavangelical wings of the party. But the Democrats' ideological allies are all over the Charlotte stage. Just tonight, we get Mary Kay Henry (SEIU), Nancy Keenan (NARAL), and Doug Stern, a firefighter who sometimes served as the compelling spokesman for the ballot initiative to overturn Ohio's new labor reforms. Democrats won that battle—actually it was probably the biggest labor victory of the Obama years.

Oh, and we get Lilly Ledbetter. I went to the women's caucus this morning and noticed which names/lines got applause. Not much applause when Obama was credited with doubling wind energy. Very solid applause for ending “don't ask, don't tell.” But roof-raising peals of joy when speakers mentioned Sonia Sotomayor and Lilly Ledbetter. This is what we expected, right? That Democrats would try to reinflate the bellows that they filled in 2008? That they realize they're not going to by going after the independents who have given up on them?

I think that the "worst campaign ever" arguments imply that this sort of base-rousing is uninspiring. Sure. It's not inspiring. But it's substantive. People elected Barack Obama and some Democrats. Barack Obama and some Democrats passed a series of laws that put burdens on employers to give birth control to employees, to raise pay, et cetera and et cetera. Lots of white male voters dislike this stuff, understandably. It goes to what John was saying—this is an interesting campaign, and whoever wins it has to confront the costs of the welfare state.

But I'm saying this before Democrats go in front of a big TV audience, aren't I? Maybe they'll water down the cream to 1 percent milk.

Dave

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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