Guess I’ll be watching this convention on TV, too

I'm hoping the Democratic Convention will be more engaging than this was.

I was at the movies with my younger son Sunday afternoon watching “The Bourne Legacy” (which I’m sorry to say I found far less engaging than “The Bourne Identity”), and the character played by Rachel Weisz had just been introduced when my phone started buzzing.

It was E.J. Dionne. I stepped out into the corridor to see what was up. He was just driving down from Washington, taking the scenic route through the Shenandoah Valley, one of the most beautiful drives in America (I drove that way many times when my youngest daughter was studying at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet). But E.J.’s not the kind of guy who finds pleasant vistas enough occupation for his hyperactive mind, so he wanted to chat.

The first thing he asked was whether I would be crossing the border this week, and I had to think a second before realizing he meant heading up to Charlotte.

Nope. I’m not. Or at least, I don’t think so. Ever since the DNC venue was announced a year or so ago, I had had it in my mind that since it was just up the road, I might bop up for part of it. But since that didn’t require any preparation, I made none. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I emailed Amanda Alpert Loveday with the SC party to see about credentials. That’s the way I had arranged it the couple of times I went to conventions before — just contact the state party, since it’s the state delegation I’d be following. But she said, “Press credentials were required to be requested by April and they are done by the Convention staff.” April? Like I’m going to prepare for an impromptu drive up to Charlotte in April?

I could still go. After all, when I’ve covered conventions in the past, I may have entered the actual hall where the convention was going on a couple of times total. But then, having those credentials did help get me into other places as well. Add to that the fact that the events worth being there for tend to happen early in the morning or very late at night — delegation breakfasts, and after-session social gatherings — and it just seems really inconvenient to try to cover any of it from home.

So I’m going to stick to Columbia, and watch the speeches on the Tube, just as I did the one in Tampa.

What do I expect to see? Well, I’ll tell you what I hope to see.

I hope to see a party that’s reaching out to independents and undecideds — a party that emphasizes things that pull Americans together — rather than a party that’s firing up its base with its ginned-up “War on Women” and other Kulturkampf flashpoints. You say there are no undecideds? Well, E.J. and I were talking about that, and he referred me to this analysis by ABC showing a large number of “persuadable voters:”

One in four registered voters may be persuadable in the 2012 presidential election – rich pickings if either Barack Obama or newly minted GOP nominee Mitt Romney can win their support. But doing so may be a challenge, requiring both subtle and substantive political persuasion.

That’s because persuadable voters, as identified in this analysis for ABC News, are less apt to be ideologically committed ones, and more likely to take middle-ground rather than strongly held positions on issues such as Obama’s job performance, Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan and their own partisan views.

Good to hear that I’m not alone. OK, we’re out here — so persuade us.

Dick Harpootlian says Jim Clyburn’s role in speaking tonight is to “excite the troops.” That’s exactly the sort of garbage I don’t want to hear. Guys, you don’t have “troops.” You’re not in a war. You are in a marketplace of ideas, and you’d better have some that are compelling to people outside that convention hall.

Anyway, that’s what I’m looking for. How about y’all?

32 thoughts on “Guess I’ll be watching this convention on TV, too

  1. Brad

    I should probably elaborate — on my parenthetical review of “The Bourne Legacy.”

    I ENJOYED it well enough. But it suffers by comparison with the first of the Matt Damon trilogy (the second and third of which, it should be said, I found fairly forgettable).

    Never mind the unbelievable plot devices. And I do not refer here to the drugs that supposedly make Jeremy Renner‘s character intelligent and athletic. I refer to the never-ending layers of conspiracies. We start off being asked to believe that there’s a whole OTHER super-assassin program, aside from the one that produced Bourne. Inconveniently, the writers kill off everyone involved with that program except Renner. This puts the obligatory evil government schemers in a bind, because it leaves them with no one to send after Renner. So they have to activate an agent from a THIRD, even more super-secret, super-assassin program. One of the evil gummint plotters expresses his incredulity at learning this third program existed. I knew how he felt.

    But beyond that, the movie fails on two levels, compared to the original Damon vehicle. First and more importantly, the human level. From the very beginning, you cared about the characters played by Damon and Franka Potente, far more than about Renner and Miss Weisz. I’m not sure why. I suspect that part of it had to do with a plot device that is one of the most engaging of all, which is why we see it so often. Whether it’s Harry learning he’s a wizard or Arthur learning he was born to be king, or Neo discovering he’s The One, there is something irresistibly exciting about a character gradually learning that he has great powers or is destined for great things. It’s a sort of universal fantasy, and you come to care deeply about the character in question.

    Then there was the way the action was directed. We’re supposed to be deeply impressed by the fantastic things Renner can do, but we never see them clearly. As a review I read before seeing the film suggested (it was Roger Ebert, referring to the too-long final chase scene), the action is too close-up and too blurry for you to see what’s happening. Renner runs into someone trying to stop him, then blur-blur-blur, that person is on the ground.

    By contrast, the fight scenes in “Identity” were realistic and deeply impressive. As when two Swiss cops hassle what they believe to be a vagrant (Damon) sleeping on a park bench, only to find themselves disarmed and on the ground unconscious in a second. You go, “Wow,” and if you slow it down on DVD, you can see every amazing thing he did.

    But you know what? Those attempts to explain are inadequate. There was just something magical in that first movie. And this latest one was prosaic by comparison. I enjoyed it — just not as much.

  2. bud

    I really doubt that 25% of the electorate is persuadable. I’d put the figure at closer to 4%. Still enough to matter but it does suggest firing up the base is just as important as reaching out to the undecidids.

    Perhaps Obama could reach out to both by appealing to a bit of common sense. We really are better off today than we were 4 years ago. I think that’s an easy case to make. First of all we now have a healthcare law that does a number of good things for young and old alike. Do we really want to bring back the prescription drug donut hole? Second, with jobs hemoraging at 700-800k/month in late 2008 doesn’t it make sense that the unemployed can at least have a bit of hope? And third, remember Iraq and Osama Bin-Laden? Both are in the past and we now have a president who is much more prudent when it comes to foreign adventurism yet still aggressive when it comes to genuine threats to the country.

    Indeed we are better off than we were under the “leadership” of the worst president in American history. Let’s make sure the voters understand that and both the undecidids and the base will be happy.

  3. Brad

    Are you SURE we’re better off than when Ulysses S. Grant was in office? Oh, wait, you were referring to someone else as “the worst president in U.S. history.” Sorry…

  4. Matt Bohn

    Grant was able to put the Klan down and protect freedmen in South Carolina. That alone would put him over Buchanan or Harding.

  5. Brad

    Before I abandon the topic, that magical plot device I referred to above — the process of a protagonist learning that he is The One — only works for ONE movie, or novel, or whatever. For me, the sequels always fall flat. This was the case with Paul Atreides learning he was the Kwizatz Haderach, the first Matrix movie, and all of the Harry Potter flicks. That was the case with Bourne, too, even though they tried to renew the mystery by having him discover he wasn’t really Jason Bourne, but a whole other person beyond that, in one of the sequels…

  6. Juan Caruso

    “I really doubt that 25% of the electorate is persuadable. I’d put the figure at closer to 4%.” – Bud

    Although it would have been difficult for me to expect, I certainly agree with Bud on this point.

  7. bud

    Ranking of Post WW II POTUSes:

    1. Bill Clinton
    2. Dwight Eisenhower
    3. John Kennedy
    4. Barack Obama
    5. George H.W. Bush
    6. Jimmy Carter
    7. Ronald Reagan
    8. Lyndon Johnson
    9. Gerald Ford
    10. Harry Truman
    11. Richard Nixon
    12. George W. Bush

  8. Doug Ross

    Did you know that the DNC is requiring a photo id for anyone to attend the convention?

    Why are they implementing racist policies when there is no evidence of convention attendance fraud?

    Why are they suppressing the rights of American citizens to participate in this activity? There must be some evil motivation behind this obvious racist action.

  9. Greg

    Bud, better off than we were under Bush? I make my money from healthcare, and my income is down about 30% (while losing very little volume). And every time someone plays with healthcare reimbursement, there is a GIANT trickle down effect. And after it trickles down, it climbs back up the ladder to the middle class and their employers who pay for WORKER’S healthcare.
    While your list is not completely upside down, you have Clinton, Carter and Obama too high, and Nixon and GWB too low.

  10. Doug Ross

    That one in four “persuadable” voters seems very unrealistic. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t made up his/her mind already.

    And that poll is only meaningful in a half dozen swing states. A swing voter in South Carolina won’t matter a bit.

  11. Juan Caruso

    “There must be some evil motivation behind this obvious racist action.” – DR

    DR, you raise an interesting point.

    Based on what the news media have been telling the public (IDs discriminate against minorities) and what Bishop Eddie Long told CNN (“Why black church culture rejects homosexuality” – September 26, 2010), the very twisted logic Democrats have leveled at Republicans should make it likely that the DNC is discriminating against Black gays.

    DNC’s intent would then seem to be equally racist and homophobic. Since we know that is false, we are left to conclude that either Democrats’ intentions are axiomatically pure, or Republicans’ intentions in Democrats’ eyes are evil.

    According to some Republicans, “Dems are mainly journalists, lawyers, public sector workers, half-educated college students, African-Americans, part of the Hispanic community, secular Jews, and what Ann Coulter brilliantly called ‘stupid single women’ who want the government to be their husband.”

    Being either ‘D’ or ‘R’ requires either inability for critical thinking, or capacity for lowdown deceit. One profession alone is famously schooled in, remunerated for and well-practiced in deceit. Leaders of both parties are usually members of said profession.

    As Clint Eastwood suggested recently, electing them to reach higher office may not be desirable.

  12. Mark Stewart

    Well, I would sure hope that at least 25% of the people consider themselves open-minded.

    What’s the point of having a campaign if no one is going to listen to the arguments and positions put forth by the candidates?

  13. bud

    Even though there are probably few voters who are “persuadable” I know a huge number of folks who are undecided about whether even to vote at all. A couple of factors are at work. First and foremost, in all but about 8-10 state, excluding SC, your vote is irrelevant. SC will go roughly 58-42 for Romney, maybe a bit closer depending on how much Romney’s Mormansism turns off the GOP faithful so why go to all the trouble? In what promises to be a close national election it is just amazing how few states are in play.

    Second, the enthusiastic Obama voters from 2008 are probably reverting to their complecent self this go around.

    Third, many folks who would normally come out for Romney just don’t like him. That’s what the convention tried to address with limited success.

    And finally, there are quite a few voters who just don’t think it matters who wins. They have already decided not to vote this time around. All in all I expect turnout to be down sharply from 2008.

  14. Steven Davis II

    So Clyburn repeating “uhh, uhh, uhh, in the middle of ever sentence is “rallying the troops”? When did someone decide he was a public speaker?

  15. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Also, ha ha, Doug. Attending a political convention is not a Constitutional right. Voting is.

  16. Brad

    For what it’s worth, here’s the official release on the above presser:

    Democrats call on Haley to leave the campaign trail and focus on South Carolina

    Columbia, SC – At a press conference in Columbia today, Democratic State Representatives James Smith and Mia Butler Garrick called on Governor Nikki Haley to leave the campaign trail and return home from her two week vacation so she can focus on South Carolina’s staggering 9.6% unemployment rate.

    Rep. James Smith (D-Columbia) released the following statement:

    “It has been two weeks since Nikki Haley has shown up for work. Instead she has been chasing every news camera she can find in Florida and North Carolina, without the slightest concern for our disastrous 9.6% unemployment rate. Over the last year, South Carolina’s unemployment rate has increased while the national unemployment rate has decreased. It is time for Governor Haley to stop blaming other people for her failed jobs record and start taking responsibility for her economy. Instead of constantly seeking the national limelight, Nikki Haley should start acting like the Governor she portrays on TV.”

    Rep. Mia Butler Garrick (D-Columbia) released the following statement:

    “South Carolinians are getting tired of watching their Governor fly from state to state focusing on national politics while our state’s economy continues to crumble. Nikki Haley likes to talk about being Governor, but she doesn’t like to do the work that is required of the office. Instead of taking a state vehicle and state security to North Carolina to try and promote herself, she should be in her office working on South Carolina’s jobs crisis. But once again, Governor Haley is too busy campaigning in other states to focus on South Carolina’s 9.6% unemployment rate, which ranks 5th worst in the country. This is really getting old.”


  17. Doug Ross


    There have been more cases of voter fraud than actual threats against the President.

    Are you suggesting all “those people” without photo id’s might pose a greater risk to the safety of the President?

  18. Juan Caruso

    How many jobs (discounted present value) has Haley’s term already brought to S.C.? Much, much more than LAWYER Vinnie Sheheen ever promised or possibly could have. Just an accurate fact for the “sour grapes” Dems!

  19. Mark Stewart


    I’ve never heard of NPVing a job, but it’s an interesting premise.

    On that basis, however, the jobs we got this year would not add up to too much. Relatively low paying manufacturing and distribution jobs with a finite existence to obsolescence would not compare favorably with the development of a knowledge economy.

    I’m still not sure that there is any real connection between a Governor’s rhetoric about bringing jobs and actual business growth. There is a correlation, sure, but what is real and what is just spin?

  20. bud

    Juan, unemployment in SC is very high right now, much above the national average. Let’s not confuse a few jobs in a handful of high profile business (Boeing) with and effective job creation strategy. What matters is NET job creation. My guess is Vince the LAWYER (whatever being a lawyer has to do with anything is beyond me) would have done a better job overall in creating SC jobs.

  21. Doug Ross

    “Relatively low paying manufacturing and distribution jobs with a finite existence to obsolescence would not compare favorably with the development of a knowledge economy. ”

    Considering the demographics of South Carolina’s unemployed, aren’t low paying manufacturing and distribution jobs about all we should hope to develop in the short term? We are a generation away (at best) from being able to move SC into a knowledge economy.

  22. Doug Ross


    What kind of jobs would Vince the lawyer create? As far as I can remember, his campaign against Nikki Haley never talked about what he would do, only about why we shouldn’t vote for Haley. All he offered for a plan was pure boilerplate.

  23. Kathryn Fenner

    Nikki Haley doesn’t “create” jobs. She may be somewhat instrumental in attracting businesses that would otherwise locate elsewhere. She also kills a lot of government jobs and nonprofit sector jobs, which are good jobs filled by South Carolinians.

  24. Mark Stewart

    I agree, Doug, but how many more decades have to pass before people are ready to make the commitment to move forward? We always have the opportunity to step up our game, but we also have to have the will to push forward and aim higher. Mostly we have been content to sit and spin in place; which really means we are sliding backward.

  25. Doug Ross


    The best way to get out of a hole is to start climbing instead of waiting for someone to bring a ladder.

    No matter how many tax dollars you throw at this problem, the impact will be negligible.

  26. Juan Caruso

    “My guess is Vince the LAWYER (whatever being a lawyer has to do with anything is beyond me) would have done a better job overall in creating SC jobs.” -Bud

    Lets not confuse employing more lawyers in cabinet posts and requiring more government employees to oversee new regulations on private businesses as job “creation” either.

    The Lawyer-Political Complex propels itself like invisible termites to feast on fruits produced by the rest of society. No, termites are doing nothing illegal, either. All kinds of parasites require regular control, however. Self control? Don’t make us laugh!

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