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Echo Chamber Politics: The “All About Trump” Democratic National Convention

It was hard to stomach. The usual suspects, the usual scripts tatty from overuse. The 2020 Democratic National Convention was a prolonged display of avoidance, evasion and theatrical amnesia. There were moments of formality masquerading as promise: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez nominating Senator Bernie Sanders for presidential candidate. But it was not to be. The decision had long been made in advance: the Democrats wanted Joe Biden, and so did Ocasio-Cortez. “If you were confused no worries!” she tweeted. “Convention rules require roll call & nominations for every candidate that passes the delegate threshold.” She had been asked to second the nomination for Sanders.

Few previous conventions could have been so heavily fussed with a non-attendee. The only thing that mattered was President Donald J. Trump. It was, in fact, the most devotional display of rage to an absent figure imaginable. There was little in the way of substantive promise for change; there was everything in the way of seeking restoration instead of resolution, the Democratic Bourbon Return that will do nothing to deal with the trauma patient that is the US Republic.

Hillary Clinton got into the grievance register, playing her slightly deranged they-took-it-from me look despite claiming an initial readiness to owe Trump “an open mind and the chance to lead.” There had been little improvement from 2016, no contemplative licking of wounds, merely platitudes that the Biden-Harris combination would see the rainbow of togetherness break over disturbed US skies. Crucial to her was voting, and voting en masse. “Remember: Joe and Kamala can still win 3 million more votes and still lose. Take. It. From. Me. We need numbers so overwhelming Trump can’t sneak or steal is way to victory.” That’s the Clinton we have all come to know.

Barack Obama, delivering his address from Philadelphia, took the teacher’s tone to a pupil who had ceased to pay attention in class. “I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.”

This entrustment had led to catastrophe: 170,000 Americans dead, millions of jobs lost, a reputation tarnished “and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.” Trump had deployed the US military as “political props” against peaceful protesters; attacked the press as the enemy. For his part, Obama mourning the flaying of the Constitution and democracy can only go so far. His administration had an appetite for prosecutions against whistleblowers – or at the very least for not stopping them. He sidestepped Congress in 2011 in ordering unilateral air-strikes on Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. He was responsible for the dubious practice of murderous drone strikes, even against US nationals.

In December, 2016, Conor Friedersdorf, in teasing out the implications of Obama’s lethal drone policy, argued that he had “set dangerous precedents.” He had excluded the policy from the courts; he had affirmed the primacy of the state in such matters and cratered much foreign real estate on the way. “Thanks to Obama’s actions, Donald Trump will be inaugurated into an office that presumes the authority to secretly order the extrajudicial killings of American citizens.”

As was the chosen formula for the Convention, what mattered about Biden was not being Trump. Biden the empathiser, the decent, the believer in all, as opposed to Trump, supposedly none of those. “When he talks with someone who’s lost his job,” reflected Obama, “Joe remembers the night his father sat him down to say he’d lost his.” Not exactly thick on vision or policy and certainly not reflective on his own role in bringing Trump to power in the first place.

Kamala Harris served up the prosecutorial brief on accepting the nomination for Vice President. It was cut and dried for the chorus and the converts. Her multi-ethnic background got an airing. There was mention of structural racism. There was an odd suggestion that coronavirus, despite lacking eyes, “knows exactly how we see each other – and how we treat each other.” There was no intention, let alone effort, to convince any swaying voters. “I know a predator when I see one.” Debra J. Saunders of the Las Vegas Review-Journal was polite in her assessment: Harris was doing her job as her campaign wanted it done. “But the campaign is clueless. And the usually sharp Harris seemed so as well.” Again, the Clinton trap: surely, the choice for candidate is obvious, is it not? Only a lunatic would vote for the other fella.

Biden’s speech tried to avoid the mammoth elephant in the convention zoom room, but it proved impossible. Trump remained a satanic centrepiece, as he had for the entire convention. “If this president is re-elected we know what will happen.” Biden tried focusing on personality, not ideas, apart from promising a “national strategy” against the coronavirus. Emotion, not thought, mattered. He knew loss. “I know that deep black hole that opens up in your chest … I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes.” To cope, you find purpose.

The incumbent, however, remained the lingering spectre at the gloomy feast. “The current President has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.” Remove the cloak, he implored. “I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness. It’s time for us, for We the People, to come together.”

The Democratic National Convention left the republic as it started. The US remains bitterly divided, its fault lines of rage and desperation sundering. Trump’s counter was as predictable as it was obtuse, suggesting that the chaotic ruined republic would not heal under a Biden presidency. The Democrats “spent four straight days attacking America as racist and a horrible country that must be redeemed.” The incumbent is the president of lawless disorder, and he is staking a claim that the only recipe to lingering illness is to take another dose of poison. Biden’s preference is for a different, distracting potion: drink it, forget and hope that someone puts Humpty Dumpty together again.

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  1. Jack Cade

    Bernie lost his bottle. As did Corbyn. If ever there was a time for each of them, it was now. But they deliberately took a dive, in my opinion.
    Corbyn has NEVER been an anti-Semite, but he let the issue swamp him.
    I don’t know what made Sanders pull his head in, but he did,
    What they have each done is let the old-time politics prevail. In the UK, there is no longer a Labour Party, it is a Blairite Party. The Labour people ignored Margaret Thatchers confession that the ascendancy of Blair was her greatest achievement.
    Sanders should have harvested the huge groundswell of support for Jesse Ventura, the kind of American John Wayne pretended to
    be. But the US – and the world – is now going to get four years of either the ‘same old same old’ or worse, four more years of distilled dishonesty.

  2. New England Cocky

    The USA (United States of Apartheid) have always had extra-judicial killings; think JFK and Martin Luther king Jr, for example.

    Have a many words of anger, disappointment, frustration and concern as you like, but Trumpery will only be legally removed by ALL Americans citizens voting against the Republican Party at every level of government.

  3. totaram

    NEC: You have it so right!

  4. Brad Black

    I would have thought the absolute urgency of getting rid of the bullshitter in chief is so paramount that policy details might be counterproductive as they were for Bill Shorten. America needs to stabilize before becoming too adventurous. This is Biden’s job in my view, to re set and oversee the squillions earmarked for energy transition, which is the other urgency, and where the jobs are.

  5. Michael Taylor

    NEC, I go for the VSA. The Violent States of America.

    Actually, I rather liked all the speeches at the DNC. Some of them were truly inspiring, but I see Dr Binoy’s point: it was all about Trump.

    The RNC will be no different: it too will be about Trump (minus the inspiring speeches).

    BTW, wasn’t Steve Bannon booked to speak at the RNC?

  6. Michael Taylor

    I still agree, Brad, that kicking Trump out of office is the number one priority. There’s such a mess to clean up. It will take time.

  7. Phil Pryor

    Could Vlad the Russian Impaler invent and pass on an atomic or thermonuclear suppository (of Abbott wisdom) and induce his mate and admirer, Donny Dogshit to insert it for instant elevation in wisdom. Adolf is said to have shot himself (an “o” not an “i”.) and Benito copped a dose of lead, excessive. Donny needs to go and the uglier the better, so as to wake up some more USAns, to the defective shit, the decline in authority and reputation, the smear on the good folk of the nation along with the crooks, crims, crazies and crap eating media monkeys that love the Trump show. What does Wall St. want? Is it more of the same crooked, bent, speculaative filthy greed?? Mhnn? Will things improve despite the result, as two duds and dummies fight for overbearing mediocrity??

  8. Kaye Lee

    According to Trump….

    “The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!”

    Biden may not be inspiring but my pet rabbit would do a better job than Trump

  9. Michael Taylor

    Jeez, Kaye, I just had to go and have a look at Trump’s tweets. His brain is truly melting.

  10. Kaye Lee

    An Israeli doctor says: “In Israel, medicine is so advanced that we cut off a man’s testicles, put them on another man and in 6 weeks, he is looking for work”.
    The German doctor says: “that’s nothing, in Germany we take part of a brain, put it in another man, and in 4 weeks he is looking for work”.
    The Russian doctor says: “gentlemen, we take half a heart from a man, put it in another’s chest and in 2 weeks he is looking for work”.
    The United States doctor laughs: “You all are behind us. Four years ago, we took a man with no brains, no heart and no balls and made him President. Now, the whole country is looking for work!”

  11. Michael Taylor

    That idiot with no heart, no balls or a brain is harping on that absentee voting is fine (because he’ll be doing it) but postal voting is fraudulent. 😳

    Isn’t there anybody in his staff with the balls to tell him that they’re the same thing?

  12. Jack Cade

    In an item on Newsradio a few minutes ago, a former diplomat suggested that Trump and his mob (sorry, Michael) will provoke a small naval dispute in the South China Sea to provoke a political realignment before November.

  13. Michael Taylor

    Jack, you’re confusing mob with mobster. 😜

  14. guest

    Over the weekend Greg Sheridan had his take on the Democrat Convention. He said it was a “travesty of a political convention.” He said it made no mention of China or of the crime and violence in the wake of Black Lives Matter.

    In other words, it was not what he wanted it to be. It was too much about Trump. “The Convention focused on emotion, not reason.” Which is noteworthy, when Sheridan goes on to be emotional about matters which interest him. And Trump himself is far from rational.

    In fact Sheridan does say that Biden “identifies four crises his presidency would address:
    coronavirus, the worst pandemic in a century; the economic downturn, the worst since the Depression; racial injustice, where the call for change is more urgent than at any time since the 1960s; global warming, where he thinks millions of jobs will be created in renewable energy. Yet Biden mentioned no policies of consequence.”

    He said what?

    Sheridan goes on to say: “Biden does have policies on his website. But over four days not a single policy was discussed in detail. Is the broad public utterly uninterested in policy?”

    We might remember the role of policy here in Oz during the last election, where Labor presented a wide range of policies which had been discussed over a long period of time – but which was dismissed by the Coalition as a big tax grab because it would have kept the tax reduction promised by the incumbent government.

    Biden’s four critical policies address important matters. Trump’s failure in dealing with the coronavirus, the economic downturn, racial injustice and global warming as seen in events in the USA: payment for health problems caused in Flint by the use of contaminated water in a region inhabited by impoverished people of colour, the raging fires in California and the high wind destruction in Idaho, the riots against racial injustice, people deliberately opposing government (local and federal) advice for the pandemic, badly handled by Trump especially…

    WE pay attention to these matters here in Oz because they concern us as well in our own way – and they are the issues where the Murdoch media itself has its own peculiar blind spots.

  15. Mark

    Success in politics flows, not from what is said nor what is done, but how voters feel. In short – it’s all about the heart not the head. Who could possibly have animus for Joe Biden? He cares! Trump – not so much.

  16. Jack Cade


    Sheridan was a big fan of Abbott. Say no more.
    Whenever I mention Sheridan I always refer to his resemblance to a lavatory brush: his writings would not be out of place in the garderobe, either.

  17. guest

    Jack Cade,

    Was Sheridan one of those who wrote on Abbott’s behalf so that Abbott received a big gong from the Queen – for what?

    Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, wrote a book called “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man”, published a month ago. It sold 950,000 copies on the first day.

    See post ‘Five shock passages in Mary Trump’s tell-all book’, July 14, 2020.

    No gong for Trump.

  18. Jack Cade


    The word was that Abbott got a Rhodes Scholarship on the commendation of a highly placed, alleged but recently released member of the Kiddie Fiddlers Club.
    I’m glad I didn’t apply for one, now…it’s tainted.

  19. Michael Taylor

    Guest @ 1:41. Brilliantly said. 👍

  20. andy56

    Kaye lee, thats the best version of that joke for a while, love it, hahahaha

  21. andy56

    you have to feel sorry for the Yanks. The system is fucked and the best they can do is stabilise it.
    Biden aint gonna do much but keep a level head and Trump is going to drown in his own swamp.
    I dont see any comprehensive plan and the way the three theaters of power operate, not much chance of real reform.
    The sentiment against Clinton was probably right but the drift to the clown is proving disastrous. Even seemingly intelligent
    americans just cant break free of their cult mentality. Here if a citizen tells the PM to Fuckoff, he/she’s lauded. In america you get lynched. Its definitely a cult like mentality. Maybe, just maybe, trump is needed to go all the way and totally fuck them up. Maybe When the shit is in their face and they can smell it , change will happen. If you engage with americans at all and they are trump supporters, your in for a shock at how dumb they really are. Clear thinking is not part of their kit but conspiracies are.

  22. andy56

    Hey Mark, how you feel guides your vote? We all voted for Abbott, Howard and scotty. We all felt great didnt we? There is a population out there that is dumb as dog shit, maybe your refering to them?

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