Momentum and Disruption: a Tale of Two Conventions
As the Democratic National Convention concludes, there are noteworthy contrasts with the Republican National Convention that offer a useful guide for the campaign road ahead.
Liberal activists, for instance, turned out in the thousands to protest the nomination of Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia, while only a few hundred showed up to protest the nomination of Donald Trump in Cleveland.
More significantly, the majority of the protesters in Philly are supporters of Bernie Sanders, reacting with outrage that the he is still supporting Hillary Clinton after the WikiLeaks scandal that proved the DNC colluded to defeat their candidate. Many Sanders delegates stormed out of the convention hall when their socialist candidate made a floor motion to suspend the convention rules and nominate the establishment candidate Clinton by acclamation.
Juxtapose this chaotic and divisive scenario with the reaction of delegates to the speech by Senator Ted Cruz on day 3 of the Republican convention when this runner-up concluded an impassioned address by conspicuously imploring voters to “vote their conscience” instead of exhorting them to vote for the nominee. From the convention floor the “boos” were deafening as the vast majority of convention-goers rejected this affront to the party.
This study in contrasts is instructive as we consider which party enters the general election campaign with greater momentum, lifted by the spirit of their convention.
On the one hand, Bernie Sanders did what most defeated candidates do for the good of their party and fell in line, to the dismay of his supporters. Conversely, Ted Cruz refused to capitulate to the nominee and encountered resounding rejection from the assemblage of delegates. Ultimately, the GOP incident was one that had a more unifying effect for the party while the Democrats experienced a much more disruptive clash at their convention.
Further evidence of a fractured party lies in the form of polling data showing that Sanders supporters, totaling 12 million voters in the primaries, are likely to bolt the Democrats this fall, with over one-third still claiming that they will never support Clinton.
Many Ted Cruz supporters, meanwhile, are disappointed in their candidate who poorly misread the political tealeaves. Republicans are increasingly rallying around Donald Trump as their nominee in order to usher in a post-Obama, post-Clinton era and protect the delicate balance of the U.S. Supreme Court with her defeat. Many are comforted by Trump’s conservative positions on issues such as immigration, tax reform, and 2ndAmendment rights, as well as his selection of Governor Mike Pence as his running mate.
Despite Trump’s current refusal to accept the endorsement of Ted Cruz or John Kasich, there’s still plenty of time for him to open his arms to them. Even Senator Cruz must recognize that he’d do well to get credit for leading as many conservatives as possible towards a Clinton-free future, while Bernie Sanders probably won’t get his phone calls returned from his most ardent supporters after his sell-out of the “revolution."
In the end, the choice in this election is between the status quo and a new era for America. Change as defined by Bernie Sanders has now been put on the back burner by the Democrats in favor of the status quo of the Obama years. For Republicans, it is inside the Capital Beltway that change is promised, which will ultimately be embraced by all conservatives such as Ted Cruz, as well as independent voters, before this campaign is over.
Based on the contrasts between the conventions, the momentum for the fall campaign is coming out of Cleveland, while only disruption is leaving Philadelphia.