GRADING THE TWO NATIONAL PARTY CONVENTIONS

by Placerville Newswire / Aug 01, 2016 / comments

By Dan Dellinger -- As a long-time campaign professional who has won a few races, I look at political conventions from a coach’s perspective rather than a partisan fan enjoying the game from the seats.  Like the World Series and Super Bowl, our national party conventions have become grand spectacles, but how well did they accomplish their real purpose?  Did these conventions achieve the five basic goals?

1. Choose a winning set of marketing positions  (the party platform)
2. Offer an electable person to manage our national government (the party nominee)
3. Solidify support for the nominee within the party (party unity)
4. Focus on a small set of solutions to problems worrying voters the most (frame the issues) 
5. Recruit volunteers and donors for party candidates up and down the ballot (generate enthusiasm)

Television ratings and party talking points aside, here is how I would grade the 2016 Republican and Democrat national conventions. 
    
    First, let us compare party platforms.  The 2016 Republican Party platform does a great job representing the viewpoints of conservative, libertarian, and liberal wings of the party while appearing centrist to undecided voters.  The 2016 Democrat Platform brilliantly represents the viewpoints of the progressive (neo-socialist), environmental, racial identity, and feminist wings of the party but moves the party further left than ever before which may prove a liability with voters who do not align with either party.   Platform Grades: Republicans A   Democrats A-

    Second, let us compare party nominees, both entering their conventions with unusually high unfavorable polling numbers.  Both parties sought to stop their polling slides by humanizing their candidates with testimonial speeches from family members.  Although Donald Trump’s children did a good job praising their father, the fact that they never cared enough about public policy to bother to vote before this year hurt their credibility and played into charges of family that only cared about profits.  However, Donald Trump’s acceptance speech was extraordinarily effective, like Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Regan; Trump energized his party’s faithful while creating an emotional link between him and those struggling voters who feel victimized by poor economic policy.   By contrast, the Democrats tried to humanize Hilary Clinton by re-inventing her into a stellar example of motherhood who devoted her life to the Progressive Movement.  Despite Bill Clinton’s brilliant speech, the public simply does not believe the former and the Bernie Sander’s Progressive wing does not believe the latter.  Nominee Grades: Republicans C   Democrats C+

    Third, let us compare party unity, with both parties entering their conventions after divisive primary fights.  Donald Trump’s campaign wisely included all factions and avoided platform and rules disputes.  Unfortunately for him, Trump could not control his ego and failed to mend fences with Conservative rival Senator Ted Cruz and Liberal Rivals Governors John Kasich and Jeb Bush.  Similarly, Hilary Clinton’s campaign also granted platform concessions to her rival’s supporters, but wisely patched things up with Bernie Sanders and featured him prominently throughout the convention.  Unfortunately for her, many on the left simply do not like her and may withhold their vote.   Thus, tactically, both conventions were left to relay upon attacking their opponent to unify their party.   Unity Grades: Republicans B   Democrats B

    Fourth, let us compare the hot button issues the parties will use to persuade you.   Expect the Republicans to appeal to our nationalism.  That is they will offer policy alternatives to the Obama administration that they believe will keep us safer from terrorism without surrendering liberty, revive our seriously ill economy, fix our broken immigration system, protect our Second Amendment, and preventing unfair trade with other countries – especially China.  Expect the Democrats to focus our attention on identity politics, where the county is divided into countless victim groups and ethnic bands who need Democrats in power to protect them.  Thus, the Democrats will advocate policies to address perceived wrongs such as gender equity, income inequality, gun violence, ending the police slaughter of black men, and Wall Street excesses.   Issue Framing Grades: Republicans A   Democrats A-

    Fifth, let us compare the excitement generated.  As we watched both of the conventions unfold, emotion and enthusiasm seemed pervasive.  Both parties scored big when they let relatives of victims speak to bolster cases for reform.  The Republicans did their best job ever in countering media stereotypes by having a wider range of speakers in prominent time slots, such as Harmeet Dhillon, the Vice-Chairman of the California Republican Party, who happens to be Sikh, open an evening session with a Sikh invocation.   The Democrats may have hurt themselves by espousing support for police and law enforcement while welcoming the Black Lives Matter group to speak and echoing their anti-police message.  By fully embracing the Black Lives Matter movement, Democrats now risk losing the support of police officers and deputy sheriffs who happen to be black for years to come.  For the Republicans, Donald Trump’s speech fired up his partisan the crowd almost as well as Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama seared the emotions of Democrats.  Trump, however, did a much better job stirring the passions of voters in the middle.  Enthusiasm Grades: Republicans A-   Democrats A-

    In my opinion, both parties achieved their five main goals well enough to earn overall B+ marks for their conventions.  At this writing both candidates are tied in public opinion polls.  Three factors remaining will determine the outcome of our election, candidate debates, two billion dollars in negative advertising directed against Donald Trump, and voter turnout.  We will know their effects in nearly three months time.

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Dan Dellinger is a government relations and political consultant based in El Dorado County.
  
Dan Dellinger Consulting
P.O. Box 638
Lotus, CA 95651
Phone (530) 644-5663
Fax (530) 644-5799
dandellinger@infostations.com