At this Democratic National Convention I am particularly interested in the crowds on the floor. Who cares about what Bill Clinton says? He does not mean it anyway. In the 1990s, he governed like a Republican after saying that “the age of big government is over.” Incidentally, he governed pretty well. He would have made a good moderate Republican, so long as he had good conservative majorities in the House and the Senate to keep him — you will excuse the word — honest. Now, of course, he has committed another of his episodic tergiversations, writing a book in praise of behemoth government, as though the 1990s never happened.
The same can be said for Sen. Jean-Francois Kerry. In 2004, he accepted his party’s presidential nomination and continued his fiction that he was a war hero, ludicrously saluting the throng at the convention with “I’m John Kerry and I am reporting for duty.” As though the rest of the nation had forgotten that he came home from the Vietnam War protesting it and appeared before a taped congressional inquiry to incriminate his fellow servicemen with lies. Then he flew off to France to be used as a pawn by the Communist Vietnamese — war hero, indeed. Possibly Sen. Harry Reid could be interesting if he would only tell us what he knows about that cow he has been rumored to canoodle with, and, to be sure, Rep. Nancy Pelosi is always good for a few laughs.
Yet the speakers at this red, white and blue podium are a pretty tiresome lot, certainly when compared with the younger generation of conservative Republicans at Tampa, Fla. Think of the wave facing the Democrats in the years to come: Paul Ryan and Chris Christie, Nikki Haley and Susanna Martinez, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, Bob McDonnell and Rand Paul. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal did not even have to show up. By comparison, the Democrats have a cohort of has-beens, plus Caroline Kennedy. She is quite elegant, but she is not equal to taking on a whole generation of conservative Republicans.
Still, the Democrats milling about on the floor have interesting faces. There are the hard-faced union types, mostly men, and they are angry. There are the feminists, the race hustlers and the other vested interests: environmentalists, consumerists, school teachers — the kind of people that we at the American Spectator call practitioners of Masked Politics. They claim a special fervor for the environment, the consumer, for children, that sort of thing. Yet, behind their masks they are standard issue big-government meddlers.
Then there are the poor souls that comprise the Democratic base. They are the voters to whom the Democratic super PACs direct their mendacious messages. They get fired up upon hearing that Republican candidate Mitt Romney has killed a woman, probably more than one. They really believe Mr. Romney is a felon, probably a misdemeanant, too, and he put his dog on the roof of his car, or vice versa. They believe that the legendary 1 percent of the income earners who pay 35 to 40 percent of income taxes should, out of fairness, pay more. In fact, they believe that this legendary 1 percent can carry the entire burden of Obamacare, Social Security and a few other entitlements along the way. We call these galoots the moron vote. I have watched them on the floor of the convention. They are highly excitable. They wear funny red, white and blue outfits, patriotic hats and glasses. They are perfect dupes.
Now, the Republicans probably have a selection of morons, too. But I do not believe the Republicans’ morons respond to their party’s message of alarm about deficit spending, government budgets and foreign policy. They are the believers in theories that the Earth is flat. They promptly put an old sock around their necks to ward off impending maladies. They do not need Obamacare. They have eccentric eating habits and here they cross over with the Democrats’ moron vote. I believe I spotted several at the Republican convention in Tampa. I know I have been spotting many more morons at the Democratic convention. Several were at the podium.
Toby Harnden, the perceptive British journalist who covers America for the MailOnline, has been traveling with the president, and he says things are different from 2008. The crowds are smaller. “There is a sullenness, even resentment, that was not present in 2008. Ask an Obama supporter,” Mr. Harnden writes, “about their man and as often as not you will get a few words about him and then a demeaning attack on Romney and Ryan.” Moreover, Mr. Harnden has noted that something else has changed: “Obama tends to look emptily past rather than at his audiences. It’s as if the light in his eyes has gone out.” It will take a lot of morons this year to light up his sad eyes.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. He is the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism” (Thomas Nelson, 2012).