Barack Obama is the incumbent president and, facing no internal challenges or opposition, the convention serves only to rubber stamp his nomination for a second term. The DNC organizers have had an uphill battle to whip up enthusiasm for the event among the party faithful, and many Democrats, facing tough electoral challengers, have sent their regrets.
The second most popular Democrat, Hillary Clinton, will be half a world away in Russia and the Far East, missing a Democratic convention for the first time in her adult life. She argues that as secretary of State she should refrain from partisan politics.
There was a brief groundswell, promoted heavily by mischievous Republicans, that she and Vice President Joe Biden should swap jobs. The thought of the bumbling Biden being just a heartbeat away from the presidency of anything — much less our country — should be enough to give anyone pause. But the idea was quickly shot down, the whole point of it being, from the GOP’s standpoint, to remind voters that Obama had made a mistake four years ago. For that matter, many Democratic voters sense they made an even bigger mistake by rejecting Hillary for the top of the ticket that year and instead swooning for Obama.
The current switch would, however, have added some excitement to a convention that is badly lacking it. But that’s the last thing convention planners of either party want — uncontrolled, unscripted excitement.
The Democratic speakers will feature the usual parade of party dignitaries, governors and mayors. Former President Jimmy Carter will address the convention by video. Perhaps he’ll have Democratic filmmaker and general buffoon Michael Moore at his side, as he did at the party’s convention in 2008.
The marquee speaker will be another former president, Bill Clinton, who will give the nominating speech for Obama. Clinton, who has never had to rely on a Teleprompter to hit a home run from a podium, is still one of the Democratic Party’s — or for that matter, the country’s — best orators. And he could well outshine Obama.
The Democrats caught a couple of bad breaks, P.R.-wise. The Friday before the convention in Charlotte there is to be a two-hour Muslim prayer festival, which will no doubt remind some voters of Obama’s roots. And the prayer-fest will come on the heels of a gay-pride festival. After the Democrats had settled on Charlotte, the state passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Gay activists want to use the convention as a platform to agitate for repeal of that amendment — not what the party needs in a state whose 15 electoral votes Obama would badly like to get, as he did in 2008.
Four years ago, Obama was a novelty, something genuinely new in American politics. His exotic background, winning manner and considerable speaking skills outweighed in the voters’ minds his unimpressive career in public office, which amounted to four do-nothing years in the U.S. Senate and seven similar years in the Illinois senate.
The Democrats will try to talk up Obama’s smattering of foreign policy successes, since they can hardly boast about his domestic record. The economy is still stagnant after four years of “shovel-ready” stimulus and trillions of new debt for our children and grandchildren. And the enormous new burden of Obamacare will have its deadening impact as well.
So the convention may be dull. The fall campaign most assuredly will not.