There is no doubt that last week’s Republican convention was a dreary, dark, and depressing affair. The Democrats are betting the house on the idea that a message of optimism can win the day in terms of contrast – I have lost count of the number of Democrats who have countered the idea of “Make America Great Again” with some variation of Biden’s “America is Pretty Damn Great Already” line from last night.
The Democrats are making two big time bets during the course of their convention, one of which is pretty good, the other of which is a huge risk. The first, safe bet they are making is that people would rather have a third Obama term than they would have either of the two detestable clowns who are actually running for President. This is good politics, in spite of how people here at RedState might feel. Obama is reasonably popular for a President entering the last six months of his term, which makes him way, way, way more popular than either Trump or Clinton, both of whom are historically detested by comparison.
The second, which is a huge risk in the current climate, is peddling a message of optimism which is centered on the idea that not only can things be great in the future, but that they are already great. The main problem they are facing in this regard is that Americans are historically pessimistic about the direction and future of the country. As the RCP average has shown, since mid-2009 (the high water mark of Obama’s presidency), there’s a steadily widening gap between the “right direction” and “wrong direction” on the map:
Not exactly a pretty picture. Whatever you will say about Trump, he has correctly perceived that people do not feel good about the future of America, and the Democrats are taking a huge risk by telling everyone that everything is okay. I get that there is a need to defend and bolster Obama’s legacy heading into this election. I furthermore get that, by a lot of leading indicators, there’s no objective reason for people to be this pessimistic about the direction America is heading in.
One thing that Trump and the Republicans are getting wrong is that they are assuming that Americans blame Obama for their pessimism about America. I cringed every time I heard Republicans use “third Obama term” as a pejorative during last week’s convention. That’s a great line for people who are already committed to vote for the Republican no matter what; for the persuadable, middle-of-the-road voter, a “third Obama term” would be vastly preferable to a first term of either Trump or Clinton.
But what Trump is getting right is that America really is in the midst of a pretty serious sulk right now. Many of the reasons for it are sort of inchoate and not very well articulable, but it’s a real feeling and Trump is engaging it – and the fact that he just moves on in a shotgun fashion from grievance to grievance without regard for the actual factual truths matches the mood of America pretty well.
Clinton and the Democrats, on the other hand, are betting big on the idea that they can change the mood of America by lecturing at them. Anyone who’s ever tried to talk someone out of being in a bad mood by telling them the facts about why they should be in a good mood can probably tell you how likely that is to work.
Clinton needs to give the speech of her life tonight to turn this race around after a messy and destructive week. Unless she figures out a way to sound a different note from what the other Democrats have done so far in this convention, she doesn’t have a chance.