LONDON — Watching the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week -- and with the horrors of the Republican assembly in Tampa still all too fresh in my mind -- I was reminded of Oscar Wilde's quip about fox hunting: "The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable." Something similar may be said of the carnival of grotesques unleashed upon an innocent world these past two weeks. When Republicans or Democrats gather to celebrate their faith, America loses.
That's how it looks when
viewed from the far side of the Atlantic Ocean, anyway. My, how each party is
doing its best to make the other seem strangely electable. If Republican
arrogance grates, Democratic smugness is just as aggravating.
Thank heavens for Michelle
Obama. Her speech (perhaps the finest of either convention thus far) at least
rescued something from what had been a grim, though doubtless successful, first
night for the Democrats -- a night during which many of the party's worst
attributes were not so much on display as celebrated with wild enthusiasm. But
even the first lady's largely admirable speech was not without its low moments;
declaring herself "mom in chief" was a toe-curling lapse of taste.
Nonetheless, with the first lady's speech on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and Bill Clinton's on
Wednesday, the Democrats marshaled star power that eclipsed anything the Republicans
could offer in Tampa, Florida.
There are, in truth, two
different conventions taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina, this week. One, televised in
prime time, tries to talk to all Americans; the other, unscreened by the
networks and followed only by political anoraks, is a back-slapping, complacent
celebration held by and for a Democratic Party utterly persuaded it enjoys a
monopoly on decency and wisdom.
Of course, the Republicans
were just as bad. But no sentient person can possibly watch these pep rallies
and think he or she wants to have any part of either party. By their nature, parties
are cults, but their creepiness is never better displayed than at their
quadrennial conventions. The theme of this week, always present in the
background and sometimes stated quite explicitly, is that the United States
and, hell, the world too, is lucky to have Barack Obama as its savior and
If no one has yet quite plumbed the depths George
Pataki reached in 2004, it's not for want of trying. Eight years ago, Pataki
told the world: "Ladies and gentlemen, on this night and in this fight,
there is another who holds high that torch of freedom. He is one of those men
God and fate somehow lead to the fore in times of challenge. And he is lighting
the way to better times, a safer land, and hope. He is my friend, he is our
president, President George W. Bush." People actually cheered this. (To be
fair, it might be said that if the United States could just about survive eight
years of Bush, the republic can probably endure four years of Mitt Romney.)