If nothing else, the strategy of the Republican convention was that perception is everything. Demonstrating that they had learned from mistakes of the past and presenting a positive vision for the future and a way to implement it was not part of their convention plan.
There were several perceptions that they attempted to create that standout as particularly remote from reality:
1. Obama did not pursue a hope and change agenda that he spoke of in his 2008 campaign
2. Republicans have a better plan for the economy
3. Republicans are self-made because they started with nothing
4. They are compassionate toward the less fortunate and want to preserve Social Security and Medicare
The popular media has lazily sunk into this narrative that President Obama has abandoned “hope and change.” In fact, when he had sufficient numbers of Democrats in both houses he managed to get through historic health care reform that very capable presidents had tried for nearly a century but had failed to do. He also signed critical financial reform to at least reduce the possibility of future financial debacles as had occurred under his Republican predecessor. The benefits from both of these historic bills will continue for generations. The ending of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan, without creating new ill-advised military adventures will cut our losses and allow resources to be allocated to far more positive and productive activities. Obama certainly carried through his agenda of hope and change.
Second, the Republicans plan for the economy is fundamentally the plan of George W. Bush, just reinvigorated with new slogans and attacks on the social safety net. Should Americans expect a different outcome from deregulation of Wall Street compounded by further tax cuts for wealthy individuals who are currently hoarding their money anyway? Romney’s personal business experience is, frankly, a very hard sell because what he did at Bain capital cannot be replicated in an entire economy, because it is not necessarily a win-win approach to business; it is often a win-lose approach. Moreover, Mitt Romney’s “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” strategy was very revealing because it was not a viable option because of lack of capital available to the automotive companies. Barack Obama’s bailout worked exceedingly well as GM is again highly profitable. And while, overall, Barack Obama’s recovery, if you will, is slow, at least it’s going in the right direction. The media needs to understand that even the right policies can take longer than an election cycle to work, particularly with such severe damage from the predecessor’s policies. Obama has earned the right to keep cleaning up the Republican mess. The Republicans have not earned the right to make another one.
Third, the Republican ticket is a pair of quite privileged men. Not many of us have parents who were CEOs of auto companies. In the context of Mitt Romney’s secrecy about his tax returns, the pride in being “self-made” rings awfully hollow.
Fourth, words of compassion at the convention make us think of “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush. Eight years, two wars, two right wing Supreme Court appointments, massive deficits and a collapsed economy later, there wasn’t much thought of compassionate conservatism. Was there even a mention of George W. Bush, the most recent Republican and a two-term president? Paul Ryan’s voucherizing of senior care is on paper. He shouldn’t be allowed to spin his way out of the fact that the Republican plan takes away security from seniors by guaranteeing a voucher and not guaranteeing medical care.
Indeed, the Republican convention has tested American's ability to resist and reject an onslaught of highly suggestive language that seeks to hide the Republican record and agenda, while dismissing the historical and positive accomplishments of President Obama.