Now that the Republican national convention has gone into the books as one the least effective political gatherings in American history, come now the Democrats to put before the nation what most Americans might regard as too stark a choice. There is a tendency for 24/7 pundits and partisan strategists to reduce elections to clear-cut choices between a Democratic or Republican philosophy when parts of either are needed to govern. Viewers got a sense that the Romney brain trust was hoping to develop a different dimension on immigration so as to pull back from the rhetoric that has offended so many HispanicLatino voters.
Fanned by HispanicLatino speakers with perfect Spanish at the convention, even the Romneys got into the act. Craig Romney – whose mastery of Spanish eclipses that of tonight’s Democratic keynote speaker, Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio – was part of the effort to try to paint over the vicious anti-HispanicLatino sentiment that has taken root within large segments of the Republican party. Even though the attempt by the candidate’s son was transparent, it does not lessen the importance of what finally was starting to come out of the mouths of some Republicans.
The effort to do better on immigration on the part of Republicans is evidence of how governance of a nation should proceed after an election – except that GOP intransigence has mucked up Washington to the point that now only a watershed electoral landslide can clear out the mossbacks and bring a party to power that can then pull in some of the other side’s arguments in a more reasonable way once in office. The 2012 election might be more about which party can better incorporate facets of the other party’s principles than about the economy per se.
Clearly, tea-party elements driving the modern Republican party are the least likely to engage in compromise, and so Democrats appear to have an opportunity to press their advantage not just with the much-celebrated independent voter but with other voters as well. Voters, after all, are not one-dimensional.
Not all Republicans seriously believe that Democrats want to take away their guns. Neither do all Democrats think Republicans want to roll up the safety net instituted by Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Republicans who think all Democrats support runaway unions are sadly off the mark. Democrats who believe that all Republicans serioulsy think that taxes should never be raised are shortchanging themselves. Do Republicans think all Democrats support same-sex marriage? They would be wrong to do so. Similarly, Democrats err if they think all Republicans oppose a woman’s right to make their own reproductive decisions.
The late-night comedians made the most of the Clint Eastwood debacle in Tampa. More than easy fodder for the comics, Eastwood’s real sin was that he epitomized the take-no-prisoners attitude that most Americans reject. In 12 minutes he blew apart the little progress Republican strategists had hoped to make to edge away from the extreme. Eastwood took away dimension, suggesting a continuing struggle for the future typified by desolate division and peevish uniformity.
The path to the future is not paved with Republican-red rhetoric or Democratic-blue ideology. If the Democrats make this an either-or convention, they will Eastwood themselves and they will have squandered an opportunity to develop and offer – on national television – the kind of leadership the nation needs.
The Democrats’ party has not been taken over by a lunatic fringe. Nor will their convention look like the brown-washed confection in Tampa. They thus stand the better chance of sounding the right note and piercing through polls that suggest a close election, which can be settled by a simple demonstration of common sense and an invitation to all Americans to stick together at a time of continuing economic and social transition.
And increasing dimension.
Jesse Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman and writes at HispanicLatino.com. Feel free to forward.