NPR logo RNC Day 3: 'We Deserve Better'

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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