Love and Change in Tampa

Yesterday was something of a love fest at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Ann Romney ascended the stage wanting to “talk about love” and her life with Mitt Romney — not the founder of Bain Capital but the “tall, kind of charming young man” who brought her home from a dance 47 years ago and who still has the power to make her laugh.


Chris Christie told a rapt audience that conservatives had become “paralyzed by our desire to be loved,” pointing out that today’s leaders have often “decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say ‘yes,’ rather than to say no when ‘no’ is what’s required.”

And then there was the rising star Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, who is running for Congress and who recounted her parents’ journey from poverty and squalor in Haiti to America, a land of opportunity. It’s not clear that Ms. Love’s endorsement of Mitt Romney and the traditional American values he espouses will do much to move the statistical needle of African-American support for Romney from near zero, but if any speech could, she delivered it.

The speeches yesterday provided plenty of rousing, feel-good moments. But to my mind the most important event of the day was something whose effect was sobering if not devastating. I mean the private screening of Stephen Bannon’s new movie The Hope and the Change. Bannon has assembled an eloquent and moving collage of 40 Democrats and independents from different backgrounds all across the country. All voted for Barack Obama in 2008. All give voice to their frustration, disillusionment, and sense of betrayal at the hands of a man who came promising “hope an change” but delivered a fiscally incontinent governmental leviathan that has impoverished America.

The Hope and the Change is a brilliant piece of cinematic story telling. It begins with the wild and weepy enthusiasm that greeted Obama in 2008 and moves slowly through the effects of his efforts to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Pat Caddell, the Democratic polling whiz who helped Jimmy Carter to victory in 1976, helped assemble the cast. Although he is a lifelong Democrat, he understands the destructive nature of Obama’s tenure, and he was on hand to praise the film and point out that its portraits of everyday suffering and disillusionment might well prove to be the Obama’s administration’s “biggest nightmare.”

He might well be right, though let’s not forget Paul Ryan, who, as one wag pointed out, embodies the president’s most horrifying nightmare: math.

So far, anyway, this convention has succeeded splendidly in achieving what conventions are meant to achieve: it has brought the various Republican factions together and energized the troops. Byron York reported yesterday on a squabble over how Republican delegates would be chosen in the future. That fight is real, but it’s my sense that it is taking a distant back seat to the main event:  beating Barack Obama and retaking America.



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