A spotlight on America's minorities as Democratic National Convention opens
Convention to include record number of Hispanic delegates, and feature the first Latino ever to give the keynote address.
The Democratic National Convention scheduled to open Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, will in many ways resemble the Republican Party's parallel event held last week: Demonstrations, parties, pins bearing candidate faces, funny hats and lots of motivational speeches about the American dream.
But while the crowd at the Republican convention was overwhelmingly homogeneous (in contrast to the remarkable presence of minorities at the podium), the Democratic parley will have a record number of Hispanic delegates – some 800 of the 5,556. Moreover, the convention’s keynote speaker, Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, will be the first Latino ever to deliver the keynote address at a his party's national convention.
The list of speakers over the convention’s three days includes numerous inspirational personalities – among them rising party stars, veteran politicians, and ordinary citizens. All will have to convince America’s minorities that U.S. President Barack Obama has stood by them and worked for their benefit, while at the same time conveying a message of unity and a vision for all of America, not just for its liberal voters.
After three-and-half years in power, Obama is no longer the blank page upon which the American public can scribble its dreams. This time he will have to justify decisions he’s made or explain why he did not manage to pass all his programs through Congress, and to defend the missions he took upon himself that he’s already admitted have failed.
The man who made history in 2008 as America’s first black president will now have to beat statistics showing that presidents vying for a second term during times of high unemployment usually crash and burn. U.S. unemployment is now 8.3%, the same rate as when Obama entered the White House in January 2009.
Obama will also have to rebut the argument that was repeatedly heard at the Republican gathering – that he is hostile to free enterprise and initiative (“You didn’t build that,” a statement he made six weeks ago while trying to convey that government aid is essential to business success, was a popular logo on t-shirts and posters during the Republican convention).
But Obama has another challenge: If he accuses the Republicans of distorting his words, rather than imposing his own narrative, he will find himself responding and justifying himself, rather than being proactive. If, on the other hand, he leaves the accusations hurled at him unanswered, the Republicans will argue that he has no valid response.
Another argument that Obama will have to face down is that his failed economic plans call on him to leave the stage to others. To the claim made by David Axelrod - Obama’s senior political adviser - on Fox News that the president has created 4.5 million jobs and saved entire industries, Republican challenger Mitt Romney replied with a promise to create 12 million new jobs in four years.
Obama will claim in his address Thursday night that he has succeeded in pointing America in the right direction and that if the Republicans assume power, it will simply put the country back into the ditch the party left it in. Obama, after all, inherited a country at the brink of economic collapse, involved in two wars, with an expanding debt and seized by deep gloom, and prevented an economic disaster, passed a health care reform plan, brought one war to an end and is en route to wrapping up the second. And of course, he was the one who ordered the assassination of Osama bin Laden.
Obama is arriving at his party’s national convention neck-and-neck with Romney in public opinion polls, but enjoys a significant advantage among minorities and is leading in a number of swing states. It’s possible that the convention will help tip the scales in North Carolina, itself a swing state, even though the last Democratic president to win that state was Jimmy Carter.
Obama indeed has accomplishments to his credit, which will certainly convince registered Democrats. But during his term he did not succeed in keeping his inspiring promise to create a new type of politics. Obama has turned out to be a smooth and pragmatic politician, who is heavily reliant on former Clinton administration officials; a man who prefers to play golf on Andrews Air Force Base on the weekends to reading philosophy and history, a man who likes beer and watching sports. Obama, a typical bourgeois family man, was a president who did not succeed in overcoming Washington’s partisanship and was eventually sucked into it.
Former Congressman Robert Wexler, the president of the Washington-based Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace and top advisor for the Obama campaign on Israel related issues and the person responsible for the Tuesday night speech to the DNC on Obama's policies on Israel, told "Haaretz" that the party platform reflects not only aspirations with regard to the peace process, but also the conditions on the ground. Wexler said that the claim Mitt Romney made at his nomination acceptance speech, where he claimed that Obama was "throwing Israel under the bus," was "highly irresponsible."
Hurricane Isaac cut the Republican convention from four days to three. The Democrats planned a three-day event following Labor Day festivals open to the public on Monday. Relating to claims that there is no reason to stretch a national convention over four days, Democrats said that it was an event symbolizing the party's openness to the nation.
There were those claiming, however, that the real reason the convention was drawn out was the inability to raise sufficient funds. Compared to the “treasure chest” at Romney’s disposal, due to the generosity of large corporations, the Democrats had to work harder as they are operating under a set of strict fundraising rules: They are barred from takign money from corporations, political action committees or lobbyists, or individual donations of morethan $100,000.