By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., was not much different from last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa. However, the Democrats did do one thing more consistently than Republicans did — they talked about policy.
To be clear, much of what politicians talked about during both conventions was upward mobility — albeit, in a mostly trite manner. This makes up a bulk of the many “what is great about America” speeches that dominate political conventions. Candidates and speakers also use the opportunity to highlight how either one of the parties is going to facilitate upward mobility or is going to destroy it.
If you ask any economist, however, it’s been a while since the United States has been truly upwardly mobile — and this situation has gotten worse as the nation’s recession lingers on.
That aside, because so little of last week’s RNC contained substance, the Democrats were offered an opportunity to spell out clearly what policies and issues have been important in the past four years, and would be important in the next four.
And nothing was off the table.
Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Michele Obama, touted a slew of policy battles that largely kept the Obama administration fighting with Republicans through most of his four years as president.
Throughout his presidency, Obama was mostly cagey about defending his own policies. He was known for treading very carefully on controversial issues such as gay marriage, reproductive rights and health care reform. In this convention, however, nothing was off the table.
Democrats defended a woman’s right to choose (although they avoided that exact phrasing), defended gay rights and stood by so-called Obamacare despite the law’s contentious past.
Clinton gave, by far, the convention’s best speech, mostly because he did what Obama has not been doing effectively for the past for years: defending the Obama administration.
Clinton’s argument for reelecting Obama was better received, more convincing and bolder than any speech Obama has given during his reelection campaign. Political journalists, who have been largely bored during this election, deemed the speech masterful. The Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo gushed that Clinton’s 48-minute case for Obama’s reelection was “a magic act, mesmerizing and magnetic.” Throughout the speech, Clinton defended Obama’s handling of the economy — the president’s biggest weakness as the election nears.
The former president told the crowd that no president could have fixed all of the damage Obama walked into four years ago. This defense draws a sharp contrast between Republicans, who have claimed the fix to the nation’s economy relies almost solely on lower taxes and fewer regulations. Clinton also defended the auto bailout, another Obama policy move that was not liked at first. He noted it created and saved thousands of jobs, directly refuting GOP claims that Obama was unable to create private-sector job growth.
In short, the DNC belonged to the policy wonks — and it was a welcome respite from the season of political fluff that has dominated the past few weeks.