Night and day

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Kathleen Parker

— If po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions tell us any­thing be­yond the pre­dictable, the one held last week in Cleve­land and the other go­ing on this week in Philadel­phia pose contrasts so stark that one won­ders if the two groups hail from the same coun­try. Hint: One of them didn’t present a di­verse cross-sec­tion of Amer­ica.

Whereas Cleve­land’s arena was a rel­a­tively sparsely pop­u­lated panorama of pre­dom­i­nantly pale faces an­i­mated by anger, Philadel­phia’s is a teem­ing, mul­ti­col­ored mass of (mostly) joy­ous cel­e­bra­tion. In stark­est con­trast, Bernie San­ders, un­like Repub­li­can run­ner-up Ted Cruz, handed the ba­ton and a pas­sion­ate en­dorse­ment to his party’s nom­i­nee.

The Demo­cratic con­ven­tion man­aged to wres­tle unity from the San­ders crowd while Re­pub­li­cans left their gath­er­ing as divided as ever. Not even the sto­ried email scan­dal — the hacked Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee files re­leased on con­ven­tion eve, not Clin­ton’s pri­vate server — muted the en­thu­si­asm of del­e­gates.

On open­ing night, a se­ries of speak­ers care­fully culled from the trove of demo­cratic de­mo­graph­ics re­lated per­sonal sto­ries that were lovely and touch­ing, if at times it felt like a group ther­apy ses­sion. Then along came co­me­dian Sarah Sil­ver­man, who broke the spell with a lit­tle re­al­ity ther­apy, telling the “San­ders or Bust” crowd, “You’re be­ing ridicu­lous.” Did she just say that? This is what passes for scan­dal when ba­nal DNC emails make one yearn for the days of gloved bur­glars with flash­lights. Even spec­u­la­tion about Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence be­ing be­hind the hack and try­ing to in­flu­ence the out­come of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion (re­ally?) pales next to the flesh-and-blood drama of Water­gate.

The Rus­sian con­spir­acy the­o­ries, loosely posited by the Clin­ton cam­paign and oth­ers, go some­thing like this:

Don­ald Trump has ex­pressed ad­mi­ra­tion of Vladimir Putin. Trump has re­cently turned more pro-Rus­sia, sug­gest­ing he wouldn’t in­ter­fere with Rus­sian ag­gres­sion if NATO mem­bers don’t pay a fair share for their de­fense. Oh, and Trump has re­fused to re­lease tax re­turns. Might they re­veal busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tions with cer­tain Rus­sian par­ties?

Then, too, the hack­ers, who did not breach the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, ac­cord­ing to the FBI, could just be mess­ing around.

Ei­ther the Rus­sians have no in­ter­est in what Re­pub­li­cans chat about or they don’t need to spy be­cause (cue “Bourne Iden­tity” sound­track) Trump and Putin are al­ready in con­stant con­tact. Ac­tu­ally, ru­mor has it that Trump’s hairdo con­ceals a chip that feeds his thoughts di­rectly into a com­puter lo­cated in an un­der­ground silo in re­motest Kam­chatka, where an­a­lysts cel­e­brate the com­ing New Rus­sian Em­pire with shots of Trump Vodka. But I di­gress. Af­ter Sil­ver­man, who was paired with the for­merly funny Sen. Al Franken, came a se­ries of heavy hit­ters, in­clud­ing fel­low Sens. Cory Booker, Elizabeth War­ren and San­ders with af­firm­ing and uni­fy­ing mes­sages. First lady Michelle Obama, who stole the show, was gra­cious as she se­ri­ally in­sulted Trump with­out once men­tion­ing his name — the ul­ti­mate put­down.

Con­trast this to the di­rect, full-frontal, name-call­ing in­sult-a-thon that has been the Trump cam­paign. Even win­ning the nom­i­na­tion failed to im­prove his mood or per­son­al­ity. Win­ning has al­ways been Trump’s endgame, so why wasn’t he happy?

By con­trast, there’s no rea­son to imag­ine that the first woman ever to be nom­i­nated to the pres­i­dency will main­tain a grim ex­pres­sion as Trump did fol­low­ing his nom­i­na­tion. He ob­vi­ously made a de­ci­sion to forgo the vic­tor’s grin and in­stead bear the coun­te­nance of a gen­eral about to en­ter war. Happy war­rior isn’t in his reper­toire.

What­ever one’s po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion, ob­jec­tively, the fu­ture be­longs to the party that re­flects the na­tion it as­pires to lead. This would not be the party whose plat­form, though not bind­ing, seeks to undo many of the rights — re­pro­duc­tive choice and same-sex mar­riage — that most Americans find ac­cept­able.

The math sim­ply doesn’t sup­port a vi­able Repub­li­can Party with­out a long pe­riod of re­con­struc­tion fol­low­ing the Trump de­mo­li­tion. This is true if Trump wins or loses.

In the mean­time, sen­tient Americans aren’t the only ones wor­ried about what comes next. On Tues­day, I mod­er­ated a panel be­fore an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence hosted by Na­tional Demo­cratic In­sti­tute. A woman from Africa sum­ma­rized the sen­ti­ments of the larger group with her ques­tion. Not­ing that peo­ple around the world de­pend on the United States to be the shin­ing light for all, she asked: Who is the best to pro­vide the moral lead­er­ship of Amer­ica? The world awaits our an­swer. Kathleen Parker is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com.

PHILADEL­PHIA

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