Third Party & Independents Archives

Thoughts From A Week After

It has been one month and four years since Governor George W. Bush took the stage in Philadelphia to accept the Republican Presidential nomination. The U.S. has seen a few changes since then though. Despite all that, the same archetypical images were present in this year’s convention as were present before. Each speech was filled with bloated patriotism and motivational lines like Bush’s statement, “This young century will be liberty’s century.” The flags and signs still waved support and the crowd still hummed with excitement. The red, white, and blue ribbons and balloons were everywhere in sight. On top of all that, the expenses for the convention were estimated at a phenomenal $64 million for the four nights.

By comparison, even the acceptance speeches between Bush and Cheney follow similar design. Cheney lands some low blows on the leading Democrats, and Bush follows them up with some of his Texas charm. Speakers like John McCain were present in both conventions praising their party leader. Each convention had a few quirky moments though as was the case with Zell Miller jumping the Democratic ship to preach this year at the convention. Perhaps Miller would have given off an aura of greater credibility had he not later admitted wanting to challenge Chris Matthews to a duel.

There have been some intriguing ideas surrounding the fact that the convention was moved up exactly one month. One major reason could be to catch more of the historical convention boom going into November. There will be thirty less days for the boom to level off this time around. A second reason was perhaps so that more of the pre-convention funds could be spent. What does an election attempt need more than additional cash? The third reason involves the proximity of the convention to the anniversary of 9/11. Even the convention’s location suggests this is not a far out idea. The number of references to the World Trade Center attacks, as well as the key platform issue of the War on Terror is even more suggestive.

What sets this year’s convention off from the 2000 counterpart is in fact the use of terrorism as an issue. Each convention has the same statements about the economy, education, healthcare, and social security. There are even repeated lines such as “the soft bigotry of low expectations” and “compassionate conservative”. There are a lot of current issues mentioned again like tax code reform, prescription drug benefits for the elderly, and social security updates. Most of these issues were outlined in the 2000 platform but never really worked out for Bush. Should we trust him when he says he will do it this time around? In the end though, what took up the entire speech in 2000 comprised less than half of Bush’s 2004 speech. The rest of the speech was filled with the War on Terror and Iraq. Ironically there was no mention of Bin Laden in Bush’s speech. This is no big deal. At least we caught Donald Rumsfeld’s friend, Saddam, and put him behind bars.

All sarcasm aside, the 2004 convention had several important themes. Strength and clarity were two. A renewed vision for compassionate conservatism came forth which once again tried to focus new ideas on the economic and social realm of the U.S. There was also an overall theme of unity for the nation. A nation with a leader as polarizing as President Bush could use a little unity. The role of the “love him or hate him” president has been cast well. Many political pundits have said there has never been a president that makes people so very sure of the way in which they felt about him. In many polls the percentage of unsure voters has gotten slimmer and slimmer until there is almost a 50/50 split of opinion. Major portions of the convention were dedicated to luring this narrow strip of undecided into the Bush camp.

As we all know, the use of such themes and patriotism had excellent results for the Republicans in 2000. The full results of this September convention are still unclear though. Will there be a disappointment with the Bush boom as there was with the Kerry boom? It is hard to tell right now. All signs point in the direction of a positive result coming out of the convention though, and Bush could sure use a big jump in the polls with just two more months to go. As if the 2000 election wasn’t close enough, this election cycle is sure to come down to the wire.

Posted by Adam Ducker at September 8, 2004 10:34 AM