Personal promotion and party zealots
Updated: 2012-09-07 08:07
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
As an observer seeing the US Democratic Party's national convention for the first time, I have been witness this week to a sort of cult of personality.
Sellers have lined up every morning outside the Charlotte Convention Center, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Democrats are holding their national convention, and peddled a dazzling array of souvenirs related to US President Barack Obama: portraits, T-shirts, caps, aprons, mugs, golf balls and children's books.
Their wares also include buttons representing people in almost any imaginable line of work or group, from Truckers for Obama, Bartenders for Obama, Contractors for Obama, Fishermen for Obama and Realtors for Obama to Surfers for Obama, Hipsters for Obama and Cat Lovers for Obama.
One particular T-shirt had a picture of Obama on the front and a list of what his supporters deem his accomplishments on its back. Mentioned on the list were his work to save the US auto industry and end the war in Iraq, as well as to reform Wall Street and the country's healthcare and student loan systems.
Obama's image also appeared on the cover of a children's book. His face shown with glory, reminding me of portraits of our great leader in former times.
Various delegates and supporters at the convention walked into the event's venue bearing what had to be nearly 100 Obama buttons on their caps, jackets and bags. Quite a few of them were in the 20,000-seat Time Warner Arena, where a long list of Democratic leaders and supporters made speeches every day from 5 pm to 11 pm.
The crowds applauded loudly before, during and after each speech. They chanted "Four More Years" and "Forward", Obama's campaign slogan for this year.
Except for a few, most of the speakers had the same messages. Obama is not just a caring leader, but also one who is also capable and who possesses a vision. His successes of the past four years make him deserving of another four years in the White House. The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, on the other hand, cares primarily about the rich.
I didn't go to Tampa, Florida, last week to observe the Republican national convention. Watching it on TV instead, I found the Republicans had nearly the opposite message: Obama has failed in the past four years and does not deserve another term.
Both sides are proficient, as they have demonstrated, at attacking each other. They seem to have no difficulty convincing their supporters who should be the next president.
Yet, isn't this merely preaching to the choir? The outcome of this tight race will depend on which candidate can win over the most undecided voters. A person can hardly succeed in this contest by praising himself and avoiding all self-criticism. After all, an election is a serious business and not a talk show.
Neither candidate, for instance, has responded well to the grievances expressed by those in the Occupy Wall Street and anti-war movements, even though people representing both have marched in Charlotte every day of the Democratic convention. The protestors have complained about abuses of money in politics and have called for an end to drone strikes in foreign countries, as well for the release of Bradley Manning, the US Army soldier who is awaiting trial for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.
Some of the protesters I talked to expressed frustration with everyone who is in power. They were unhappy with Obama and said the Republicans are even worse.
It reminded me of my next-door neighbor, a retired professor. On his door is a sticker with the word "Forward" printed on it. When I asked him about his views about the two candidates, he said, half jokingly, that he'll have to vote for the lesser of two evils. Americans seem no less frustrated with party politics in Washington than with the country's stagnant economy.
Obama is finding it difficult to convince US citizens that he deserves another four years in office. Romney's task is equally hard.
The frenzied party politics I saw at the national conventions simply need to cool down.
The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA. E-mail: email@example.com
(China Daily 09/07/2012 page8)