Dem spark, GOP fizzle

Here in Denver, surrounded by progressive activists from every corner of the nation, you’d have to search awfully hard to find a single Democrat who isn’t fired up about their historic ticket and the genuine promise of real change.  By contrast, Republicans appear positively gloomy about gathering next week in Minnesota.

At its core, a nominating convention is a celebration of a party’s brand. Democrats have a great deal to celebrate this time around — a groundbreaking ticket, a commitment to a 50-state strategy, the rise of a new populism infusing the party with fresh energy and leaders, and an electorate eager to embrace Democratic solutions to the nation’s ills. In short, Denver is host to an invigorated and pluralistic party with pragmatic solutions.

Republicans, on the other hand, have little to celebrate, and nothing to offer Americans save divisive, hackneyed rhetoric. Their politicians are under siege thanks to President Bush’s record-breaking disapproval numbers, Iraq fatigue and a broken economy. GOP candidates such as Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut have even used images of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in their advertisements to try and blur their Republican labels. Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has actively distanced himself from the Republican brand, afraid that the GOP’s elephant logo alone may doom him.

There is precious little political margin in being a Republican this year, and consequently, party apparatchiks trudging toward next week’s convention in St. Paul are doing so with approximately the same enthusiasm that Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) exhibits when asked about the Twin Cities airport.

McCain has no choice but show up to the Gopher State shindig, but the party made sure to schedule Bush and Vice President Cheney to speak three days prior to McCain — the better to prevent any chance of McCain and Bush inadvertently crossing paths. Democrats have no such fears, and will be featuring former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday evening, the night before Obama’s acceptance speech. Unlike Republicans, Democrats are actually proud of their presidents.

At last count, just two Republican Senate incumbents currently facing reelection will be in Minnesota — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and St. Paul’s own Norm Coleman. And Coleman is less than enthusiastic, recently telling Minnesota Public Radio that “if the convention wasn’t in St. Paul, I wouldn’t be at the convention.”

While Denver is swarming with incumbent Democratic House members and dozens of challengers, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) advised Republican candidates to stay away from Minnesota, calling it a “waste of time.”

Republicans didn’t think it was a waste of time to celebrate their party in 2000 and 2004. But those conventions now seem like ancient history, dusty relics of a lost time when the GOP was proud and in the ascendancy.


Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com).