by Brad Parker —
Beneath a massive prop that resembled nothing as much as it did the “Mothership” from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, strode the stars for the first scene of the 2008 Democratic Convention. Down the gangway they strolled, to a strong R&B beat and a tightly scripted teleprompter. As they read their carefully scrubbed lines they were bathed in an ethereal light show from above and beyond. It was a triumph of lighting, stagecraft, good intentions and empty calories.
Strangely, there was precious little sauce on the Q at this festive soul session. It was if the entire endeavor had been focus-grouped to death. Madmen had dumbed it down. Sizzle it did but steak it was not. Not for lack of good intentions did this extravaganza fall flat though. No – everyone meant well but as Shakespeare wrote, “many a slip twixt cup and lip”.
What was missing in this mélange of Madison Avenue sure fire branding, I wondered as the hours crept by? Then it struck me – with everyone reading from a script you need very good writers to keep the audience’s attention. To have a truly transformative evening in the theater you need words that are authentic and not “one size fits all”. This isn’t McDonald’s, this is people’s fate were talking about. We were consuming the bones of the Liberal ideal with the marrow sucked out of them. Crony was in the house.
It is fair to say that none of the players in our drama were to blame. On the contrary, they all did their bits in earnest. However, only one spoke the truth that hid behind the intent of the coming election. America wants rid of its Republican abusers and Rep. Jim Leach, a Republican no less, delivered the stinging rebuke as if possessed by the ghost of liberal Republicans of days gone by. Then, sheer will lifted Ted Kennedy on to the stage and his emotional delivery invoked the liberal ghosts of Democratic days gone by. These were highlights of the evening for policy purveyance and good old-fashioned rabble rousing. Whenever the conversation turned to economics though, as it often did, they rolled out the mush.
Democrats have an Achilles heal when they speak of the economy. Democrats always portray their constituents as victims. Some wise-guy admeister or Beltway consulting group seems to have convinced Democrats long ago that pathos is the way to the voter’s hearts. I disagree. Why is it necessary to summon moral clarity only through pity? Not one Democratic policy position needs a dour tone to succeed.
In economics for instance, why not employ the positive methods and progressive economic policy Mark Pash explores on his new website, www.economicsfordem ocrats.com? I was so impressed with his concepts I collaborated with him on the essays. He says it simply and with vigor – progressive economics will make more money for everyone than conservative or moderate economics. Nothing mushy about that statement. He has done a thorough analysis to back it up as well. So, why not portray the poor, working poor and middle class as the bedrock of American business? After all, they do the work that makes the goods and services that pay the taxes and generate the sales. Democrats need to come from a place of strength not weakness. The subtext of every economic proposal tonight was let’s be the good Party and help the victims. Ugh – that is not necessary.
Perhaps most poignantly missing from the evening was one iconic image, just one. On an evening that rightly exulted women, mothers and motherhood, the steadfast and tough-minded tenderness we all rely on, there was a mother missing. Amidst the glow of Nancy Pelosi’s ascension to Speaker of the house, Rosalyn Carter’s quiet fortitude, Caroline Kennedy’s call to the courage of her father echoed in Barack Obama, Senator Claire McCaskill’s pride of family, Marian Robinson’s pride in her girl and Michelle Obama’s pride in her two girls there was someone’s face oddly missing. Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro’s name was invoked but her eyes were not seen. She hovered above the proceedings as if she was a mystical apparition, unseen but deeply felt.
S. Ann Soetoro is Barack Obama’s mother. She died at too early of an age but left a son of remarkable possibilities. We could have used a look into her eyes when her daughter, Barack’s sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, called out her name. Instead, we were left to imagine the reality of her life, her soul. She was there I suspect. The “Mothership” hovered but did not land.
Act one saw the distant promise of change without the clarity of positive progressive policy and action, the continued fear of losing that prevents the strength of taking a position or making a stand and the power of women without the prime woman. It was a close encounter on all counts and a good effort. It was close but no cigar.
by Brad Parker
Brad Parker is an award winning artist, songwriter, producer and musician. He has recorded, toured and produced hits in North America, Europe and Asia. Parker owns Indie label Riozen records and is a co-founder of “muzlink.com”. Brad is a prolific political writer and speaker as well. Parker is very involved with Democratic political organizations including: President, Valley Democrats United, Vice President, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, Platform Committee of the California Democratic Party and Delegate, CDP Central Committee from the 42nd Assembly District.
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