Conventional Wisdom

RNC Day 3: 'We Deserve Better'

Conventional Wisdom

"Conventional Wisdom" brings you perspectives from both sides of the political aisle during this convention season. Author and Columbia University professor Farah Jasmine Griffin watched Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accept her party's nomination for the vice presidency — and the media analysis that followed — and offers the following response:

Farah Griffin

They like her; they really, really like her. The Republican faithful loved Sarah Palin.

The pundits seemed to love her, as well. All have proclaimed hers a "great speech." Great Speech? It was an entertaining performance. It may even rank as a "good speech." It was not a great speech. Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address," Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream", John F. Kennedy's "Inaugural Address", Mario Cuomo's 1984 DNC keynote, Barack Obama's race speech in Philadelphia and his address at the 2004 Democratic Convention — these were great speeches. Their rhetoric sought to unify us around an expansive vision of our nation. The same cannot be said of Palin. It was long on one liners, sarcasm and snide, mean spirited remarks. And, it was full of half-truths.

She claimed Obama would raise the death tax, business taxes and "increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars." Barack Obama's tax policy would increase the income of middle-class Americans. The working poor would fare better under Obama's tax plan. He would increase taxes on those with income over $250,000. She said that Barack Obama had not authored a single major law or reform, "not even in the state Senate." The AP reports Obama "was the leader on two big, contentious measures in Illinois: studying racial profiling by police and requiring recordings of interrogations in potential death penalty cases. He also successfully co-sponsored major ethics reform legislation." (Also see the Lugar-Obama bill on international nuclear disarmament.)

Palin and Giuliani (whose speech was much more effective) belittled community organizers as a way of questioning Obama's credentials. Community organizers empower ordinary citizens to stand up against things like police brutality, environmental racism and inadequate services. They seek to strengthen communities, particularly those underserved by government. Take one look at the incidents of police brutality under Giuliani's administration and his disdain for community organizers make sense. He was often the target of their organizing campaigns. I don't know if the same is true for Governor Palin. Obama worked for the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a large church-based community-organizing agency in Chicago. It was started as a branch of the Calumet Community Religious Conference (CCRC). One might expect the Republicans to applaud this kind of faith-based community involvement. They do not.

If Giuliani and Palin were misleading, Mitt Romney seemed to be living in an alternate universe: one where the last eight years in Washington have been dominated by liberals, where the Surpreme Court is made up of radical lefties and where he, a very wealthy former Governor of Massachusetts is not part of an Eastern elite!

I had hoped that we might experience a different kind of campaign under the leadership of Senator McCain. In selecting Governor Palin and encouraging the kind of spiteful, venomous rhetoric on display last night he has let the American people down. We deserve better. The Republican Party leadership claims to present us with something new. Instead they have presented us with a throwback to the old nasty, divisive politics of times past. They took a page out of Karl Rove's playbook. What's next? A Lee Atwater moment? Frightening. Truly frightening.



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I sat through Palin's speech and it was very painful. This is one hateful lady and she wants to be our Vice-President? After hearing her speech I went online and volunteered to work until the election in one of the battleground states. That's how much I want to keep McCain/Palin out of the White House. I talked to a number of my friends after the speech and a couple of them said they were waiting for her to break out the Confederate flag. And today after all that bold, in your face rhetoric she is running from the press. That woman has got to be one of the most qualified candidates ever nominated as Vice President. She doesn't have a clue. Now that she's come out swinging I hope the press doesn't give her a pass. And she better not complain about sexism.

Sent by marilyn | 7:49 PM | 9-4-2008

Why is no one saying anything about the risk we all run by having Sarah Palin as a possible vice president? She may be vociferous and forceful BUT she is the mother of 5 children the youngest of whom is a special NEEDS child. McCain if voted in, is at higher risk of dying than say Barack Obama, then we are left with an inexperienced mother of young children in charge of the most powerful nation in the world. I am a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 3, I believe in women's lib and all it entails. Let her try again in 10 years time when her children are less needy and she can devote herself full time to the most important and powerful job in the nation. Imagine this - once again our government decides to invade another country and McCain (hopefully not) is incapacitated, she is left in charge and they discover a life threatening problem with her infant - not unlikely with Downs syndrome children. Does anyone really believe she could give herself wholeheartedly to the crisis situation? She is anti abortion and chose to have a high risk baby after 40, with that choice comes responsibility. Her husband has a full time career and is not a stay at home Dad. She bore her child and maybe even nursed him/her and has to feel the bond/tie that all mothers feel. I feel strongly that she should withdraw her nomination and wait her time.

Sent by Judy Black | 8:00 PM | 9-4-2008

You are absolutely correct. We deserve better.

Sent by Sally Mills | 9:03 PM | 9-4-2008

I appreciate your article. Just a question however... I am troubled by the seemingly silenced voices of the economists, scientists, environmentalists, and fellow politicians of like mind, why isn't there outrage? It shouldn't be solely Senator Obama's responsibility to stand up to these falsehoods. Where are the professional voices, and his fellow democrats.

Sent by ac | 9:38 PM | 9-4-2008

I am sooooo tired of whiners. I am a proud African American PITBULLWLIPSTICK and found BOTH conventions quite effective. BOTH conventions were attended by AMERICANS. Can you believe that! I liked McCain's point about this is a different era and how we, the USA must catch up with the times. History was made with Obama being the first African American NOMINATED to run for President of our dear nation. WE have been behind, focused on entertainment more than educaton and found LAGGING and LACKING. I challenge anyone to go to any public school and read some of the children's papers. Review some of their work...I double dog dare you to visit an urban inner city school full of our children. Please visit mid day, after we've gotten them quieted down, after we have some semblance of order, after we THE TEACHERS, HAVE PASSED OUT PAPER, PENCILS, PENS to the majority of kids in each of our five classes because they have their cell phones, ipods and gucci bags in tow but somehow forget to bring necessary tools to school.

They can barely tell a noun from a verb, forget about transitive verbs, adjective, adverbs and prepositions. Their math is HORRIBLE AND THIS is why other countries are out pacing us in especiallly in math and sciences. Out kids know all the stats of the current sports figures, they know ALL the lyrics to most of the HIP HOP garbage, and they know how to play the HELL out of video games. But can they think critically? NO.

The trends predicted 25-30 years ago with the proliferation of technology and computers, that change was going to come. Economists and others forecasted that we, the US was going to become a service nation.

We need to get back to thinking and get back to work and make this country great again.

I happen to live in the INNER CITY and see my people everyday. I work with community organizations and SEE how the more we give to a vast majority, not all, a vast majority,the more they want. I can barely get through the door of the store without SOME of my people offering to sell me their FOOD STAMPS. I see our young men, black and white, becoming Johnny Appleseed, and our young ladies never marrying BABY DADDY but simply going on to have more babies by numerous other BABBY DADDies and complaining because no one will come and fix their faucet in the low-to moderate income apartment.

Let's not go for the okie doke people. Black folk still need help and in no way am I against affirmative action I am for all type of POSITIVE ACTION. Especially the action we can take as individuals by putting our hand to the plow and going to work. In St. Louis the newest trend is killing your homey, inlaw, outlaw, associate or friend over a hamburger? Two murders like this in 4-5 weeks. What are we thinking?

It's scary when you get a vast majority of folk that totally believe in one party. We are as diverse as African Americans. It almost like a DEMOCRATIC CULT has been created and we have been brainwashed. Statistically, its almost impossible for you to have nearly 100% of any group believe 100% of the same thing.

Wake up Black family, think for yourself Think economics, think about our source not being one man DEMOCRAT or REPUBLICAN. When you look to man for your good don't be surprised at what you get.
I am so sick of the black spin and the double standard. If you're deocrat you're sexist if you don't allow that mother wit kids to go to work, but if you're a democart talkign about Sarah Palin and her five children, it's oh my God how is she going to do it...well she is married.

NOBama for me, I am going with McCain and the PitBullWLipstick! Wake up people and let's get back to taking care of business. I am tired of the self inflicted madness and don't tell me how they, the system did it to us...IF I stand there and let somebody USE AND ABUSE ME WHO'S THE NUT?

We deserve better from ourselves FIRST!

Sent by PitBullwLipStick | 10:32 AM | 9-5-2008

pitbullwlipstick: I think it's accurate to say you swallowed the GOP party ideolgy hook line and sinker, preferring social oppression over one of advancement for all peoples and communities. That's fine, but did you have to take up so much space trying to get it across that you're a total token nut bag? And another thing, there's no possible way you're a sister. Sure you've got the nuance (almost) down pat, but there's an awful lot of white jive'n com'n through too...try again.

And ac: take heart there are many, many, outraged voices in the concerned and enlightened communities you mention. Right now though the media including our beloved NPR is caught up in the mundane dribble such as with the likes of pitbullshit. Maybe someone in the media circus will have an epiphany and realize just how big a wedge it is that is being driven between red and blue and in turn ignoring the issues we need to be concerned with.

Sent by george gekas | 11:47 AM | 9-5-2008

As for Sarah Palin bad mouthing and/or minimizing the contributions of community organizers, I am personally offended.

Doesn't this "pit bull with lipstick on her teeth" know that it was community organizers that gathered in Seneca Falls in 1848 to fight for the rights of women in this country?
Doesn't this proud American know it was community organizers that helped to ensure the passing of the 14th Amendment in 1868, which granted Blacks, who resided in America, citizenship and the right to vote? (Meeting certain criteria, of course.)
Doesn't this woman, the first woman to be on a Republican presidential ticket, know that it was community organizers who fought tirelessly to ensure that the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, which granted women their right to vote?
Doesn't the mother of a special needs child, as she put it, know that it was community organizers that fought/still fight for the rights and protections of children and adults with disabilities?

I guess not.

Sent by Angie | 5:55 AM | 9-8-2008