Surviving Political Conventions

While it would be a stretch to say I found the US Democratic convention inspiring,  what is more important is that I – and millions of others – found the Republican convention laughable and ludicrous in its touting of flagrant falsehoods and scientifically improbable promises.

It’s easy to assume that this divide in style between these two political conventions has been brought on by the character of Tr**p, but there has long been some of this distinction between the two parties. Robert Reich, recently wrote in The Guardian: ‘The Democratic party is basically a governing party, organized around developing and implementing public policies. The Republican party has become an attack party, organized around developing and implementing political vitriol. Democrats legislate. Republicans fulminate.’

While I agree with this, the Democrats’ convention replaced a lot of their typical policy speak with some battle talk. This time the Democrats appeared to have followed the advice of Churchill who once said, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’ While I hesitate to call the coronavirus pandemic a ‘good’ crisis, it’s a crisis, which has laid bare the failures of populist-led governments across the world. Many of the speakers at the Democrats’ convention highlighted Tr**p’s disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Other crises where brought into the mix, reminding people that this president pulled America out of the Paris Climate agreement and continues to create division through racist immigration policies and support of institutional racism in America’s police forces. True, these points against the Tr**p Party (formerly the Republican Party) have been said countless times before but often embedded in the jokey monologues of Steven Colbert, Seth Meyers and the like or in the sarcasm of news columnists both sides of the Atlantic. It was refreshing to hear these criticisms in measured tones without the laughs (these are serious issues after all) from Democratic politicians and dignitaries, one after the other, showing signs of unity. I was also pleased – and like many breathed a sigh of relief – when it was all over and Joe Biden had not committed any lapsus linguae.

Speaking of language, the Tr**p Party convention produced more than its share of linguistic wonders. Here are just a couple of my favourites. Senator Tim Scott warned that Biden and Harris will turn America into a ‘socialist utopia.’ Clearly the senator doesn’t understand that utopias are good things. Coming from the Greek ou, meaning not, and topos, meaning place, utopia literally means ‘no place’ and by extension, thanks to Sir Thomas More who might be spinning in his sepulchre, means ‘an ideal place.’

In the final speech of the convention, the tweeter in chief accepted his party’s nomination by saying, ‘I profoundly accept this nomination.’ His speech writers must have known that Tr**p, the self-described ‘stable genius,’ could not humbly accept anything. Other high collocates for the word accept, include graciously and gladly, neither of which suits the fiery tongue of this presidential vulgarian. Having thrown out these other words, I imagine the speech writers going for a presidentially serious tone and following a thesaurus thread from serious to deep, ending up at profound. At least they had the grammatical wherewithal to add an –ly to make profound an adverb even if the resulting phrase – like this president – makes little sense.

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