National conventions reveal parties’ true colors

November 6 is just around the corner, and it’s almost time for Oles and Americans around the country to make a very important and personally empowering decision. As temperatures dip into the 30s and the days of shorts and tank tops dwindle, we are forced to abandon the carefree days of summer’s political mind block. Whether we count down the days until the first presidential debate or plug our ears whenever we hear political babble, we all feel the pressure to pick a side and stick to it.

The Democratic and Republican National Conventions offer undecided voters a chance to hear out both sides of the election, and, theoretically, should give each party a chance to re-energize their candidates. While this year’s DNC effectively reaffirmed the party’s faith in President Obama, the RNC highlighted its party’s disjointedness and detracted from what should have been the main focus of the convention: Mitt Romney.

Don’t get me wrong; I am by no means saying that the RNC made individual members of its party look bad. On the contrary, the inspiring and heartfelt speeches made by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie re-instilled some of my fears that the Republican Party could actually produce a groundbreaking, charismatic candidate who could captivate and identify with Americans as Obama did in 2008.

But the RNC did not heighten my fears about Romney’s presidential appeal. As expected, Romney delivered a relatively dry, humorless and uninspiring speech. The biggest blow to Romney’s campaign, however, was dealt by Rubio, Christie and Santorum’s speeches, all of which emphasized their own personal feats and presidential appeal rather than Romney’s.

My eyes were glued to the screen throughout Rubio’s accounts of his blue-collar immigrant roots and his parents’ faith in the American Dream. But Rubio’s pledge of support for Romney was a tagged-on after-thought to his own proclamation of presidential potential. It almost seemed like payback for his VP snub.

And while I did sympathize with Santorum’s struggle to raise his critically ill daughter, his speech had more to do with himself than Mitt Romney’s presidency. He only begrudgingly claimed his support for Romney at the tail end of his tear-jerking speech. Then again, after all of the slander they exchanged during the primary, I can’t imagine Santorum’s proclamation of support was driven by anything more than conventional obligations.

Despite widespread pressure to do so, the Republican Party was unable to put up a united front and dissolve the plague of tensions and disjointedness that has worsened through the new decade. This was further illustrated by Ron Paul’s refusal to endorse Romney for president, coupled with his supporters’ disruptive behaviors during the convention, which included calling out angrily from the stands and walking off the stage in outrage when Paul’s delegates were displaced.

It comes as no surprise that the rhetorically masterful Obama delivered an eloquent, passionate speech. What did come as a surprise, however, was the hailed highlight of the DNC: Bill Clinton’s address. President Clinton, who was once rumored to dislike Obama, fully endorsed him from the very first line of his speech. Clinton only referenced his personal accomplishments as president once, and while his speech used many critical statistics to convince viewers and attendees to vote for Obama, he also kept the audience engaged through humor, even poking fun at Obama’s victory over his own wife in the 2008 primary.

Before we pull the lever this November, we will be forced to consider not only the implications of associating ourselves with our chosen candidate, but also of the political party as a whole. So, pick a side and stick with it – just make sure the party you choose to align yourself with is one that will make you proud.

Madeleine Tibaldi ’16 tibaldi@stolaf.edu is from New York, N.Y. She majors in political science.

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