It was the most heavily scripted, carefully choreographed Democratic convention I can remember. The signs, the chants, the singing, dancing delegates; all were made for TV, though TV, for the most part, was ignoring them.
But I'll tell you what: there were exquisitely inspiring speeches, and genuinely emotional moments. There were times when you felt as if the Democratic Party was returning to its roots.
And the convention, I think, did what had to be done if John Kerry is to be elected president in November.
Certainly there were disappointments. Big ones. The convention was long on vague, militaristic "strength" talk and short on specifics about how the Democrats will deal with key issues. And it was woefully short on talk about one of the most serious problems facing the country today: the crisis in America's cities. The poverty, the economic decline, the wasteland in public education will affect America's health, well-being, and international competitiveness for decades. No president, no Congress, can move the country forward without addressing that crisis.
Kerry himself engaged in blatant pandering, promising a middle-class tax cut when nobody, in this economy, with this war, with this deficit, can promise that responsibly. And why, why could Kerry not bring himself to express sorrow and regret over his vote to go to war in Iraq?
Then there was the ostracizing of liberals and the unsuccessful presidential candidates of the past, scheduling Ted Kennedy out of prime time, limiting Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and George McGovern --- capable, courageous men --- to a brief wave from the convention floor.
The Democratic Party, of course, is spooked. Many of its core constituents --- regardless of their opinion of Kerry and Edwards --- are so determined to oust Bush that they'll overlook or swallow a lot. Kerry doesn't have to convert them.
There are, obviously, liberals who can't stomach Kerry's moderation and waffling and will vote for Ralph Nader. They have convinced themselves that there is little difference between Kerry and Bush. They overlook little things like right-wing control of the Supreme Court, US corporations' capture of the vice presidency, and the appointment of a fanatic to the office of the attorney general.
But none of the other Democratic candidates besides Dennis Kucinich would have satisfied those voters. And rightly or wrongly, Dennis Kucinich could not have been elected. We liberals have a lot of work to do educating voters that we are the path to a strong America. Republicans have turned liberalism into a dirty word, and ensuring the re-election of George Bush in order to "send a message" to Democratic leaders will not change that.
The Democratic Party's challenge now is to keep the convention delegates as passionate and pumped up as they were in Boston. And if the Kerry campaign is smart, it will also rely on some of its greatest resources --- the speakers, youthful and aging, women and men, from the convention. Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Nancy Pelosi, Al Sharpton, Louise Slaughter, Max Cleland, Ted Kennedy: send 'em out across the country, to preach the truth and inspire the nation as they inspired the convention.
What a state!
Well, we should have known, yes? The minimum-wage campaign just went too well, the votes in the state legislature were just too lop-sided for this to have been real.
That there was any vote at all by this do-nothing legislature at the taily-tail end of a particularly do-nothing session was a tip-off. We should have seen it coming.
Big money, not grassroots movements, controls things in Albany. We should have seen this coming.
And so as the workers in the broad campaign for a modest increase in the minimum wage were celebrating a victory, the governor was announcing his veto. Oh, he supports raising the minimum wage; he just wants to feds to do it.
And what about all those Republicans who at last saw the light and voted for the increase? Surely they'll support an override, right?
In a pig's eye.
The fix was in from the start. You know it, and I know it. This is an election year, and voting for the minimum-wage bill gave some state legislators some cover. And Pataki did what they all intended to do in the first place. He snuffed the bill out. And everybody's a hero.