Behold the Democrats: party of the people, party of progress, party of the perpetually aggrieved. In Philadelphia on Monday, they kicked off their quadrennial convention, in the process reminding everyone that they are also the party in power. The task before them is formidable: to sell Americans on the notion that eight years of Democratic rule have left the country better off, while at the same time convincing swing voters in Ohio and Florida that a host of ills—from patriarchy and institutional racism to corporate greed and police brutality—plague us still, and require ever greater levels of government intervention to solve.

The argument lends itself to cognitive dissonance. Monday’s speakers testified to the devastation of the opioid epidemic, which has emerged as a national crisis only in recent years. Undocumented immigrants spoke of the hardship of living in the shadows, though the label “deporter-in-chief” was affixed to Obama not by the restrictionist Right, but by the open-borders Left. Last night’s convention theme was “United Together.” In the interest of truth in advertising, it ought to have been “Having it Both Ways.”

Consider Michelle Obama, who wowed convention-goers with her primetime speech and earned predictable rave reviews. Eight years ago, she was a 44-year-old hospital executive earning a six-figure salary, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, a resident of one of Chicago’s toniest neighborhoods, and the wife of a United States senator. Yet she felt justified in peddling the notion that America is a kind of prison for those unlucky enough to be born female and black. In February 2008, she told a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, that seeing the support for her husband’s presidential campaign made her feel proud of her country "for the first time in my adult life." 

Monday night, as the outgoing first lady, Obama sang a different tune. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that America isn’t great, that we need to make it great again,” she implored the crowd. “This is the greatest country on earth.” That’s some turnaround. Perhaps she would consider delivering that message at a Black Lives Matter rally, or putting it in an e-mail to her former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who thundered “God damn America” during his sermons at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ.

The convention’s stated purpose—to nominate Hillary Clinton for president—was nearly overshadowed before the gaveling of the opening session. Courtesy of Wikileaks, thousands of Democratic National Committee e-mails were released, showing party apparatchiks conspiring to derail the upstart campaign of Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders. The revelations forced the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Temporary chairmanship of the convention was handed to Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake—she of the infamous inclination to give “those who wish to destroy space to do that.” The e-mails confirmed what Sanders backers had long suspected—that the fix was in from the start, the game rigged. The Clinton campaign leveled its own allegation: that Moscow had hacked the DNC in order to throw the election to Vladimir Putin’s bosom buddy, Donald Trump. The FBI, recently caught up in the strange vindication of Clinton’s lax attitude toward classified government documents—and usually so reluctant to comment on ongoing investigations—helpfully declared the Russian government its top suspect in the DNC hacking.

As the “cool” party, with allies in the media and academia, Democrats think that they can get away with pretty much anything. Unlike the GOP, the Democrats can play any rock song they like at their convention without fear of receiving cease-and-desist tweets from a recording artist. In fact, the artists themselves are happy to join in. Paul Simon was the opening night musical guest. Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz, Snoop Dogg, and Los Lobos will also perform in and around Wells Fargo Arena this week. The stars come out to excoriate greed, to abominate waste, and to extol the virtues of high taxes. Then they fly in private planes back to their gated, privately policed mansions.

The Democrats went to Philadelphia hoping to draw a sharp contrast with the Republicans, now the party of Trump, the Vulgarian. Good luck with that. Thousands of indignant left-wingers are gathered now in the City of Brotherly Love to vent, to march, and perchance to riot. Monday, televised interview segments were virtually drowned out by the bellows from aging hippies and Soviet-flag-waving militants: “Hell no DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary!” Aping chants heard on the floor of last week’s Republican convention in Cleveland, they marched through the streets yelling, “Lock her up.” Some took it further: “Off with her head,” screamed les miserables gathered at the barricades. Inside the hall, Democrats unfurled Palestinian flags and hooted at every mention of the name of their party’s presidential nominee.

The Democrats can count on the media to spin even their most dysfunctional spectacles as some kind of success, but viewers at home might come to different conclusions.They might decide that America is going on in the wrong direction, or the right one, but not both at the same time.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images


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