I didn’t watch Ann Romney speak last night at the Republican National Convention. Sacrilege? Perhaps. But let me ask you something — whatever your political persuasion is — did you learn anything substantive? Did you move from a maybe to a yes or no? I am willing to bet not, and I’m not a betting woman.
In this election the number of undecided voters is perhaps one of the lowest in modern history, about six percent of the electorate compared with 10 percent in 2008. That’s an incredibly small target. But it also means that by and large most voters already know who their man is.
So, the truth of the matter is that the political conventions — Republicans this week, Democrats next — is more about stirring up the base and cementing candidate narratives.
Even in the next-day coverage of the speeches from last night, I find I am learning very little other than Ann Romney claims, inexplicably, that her favorite show is Modern Family (much to the chagrin of the show creator). Perhaps Ann has a more subtle sense of humor than we realize. Or, perhaps she is completely unaware of the irony of liking a show that prominently features a family with gay fathers when her party and her husband vehemently stand against what the show represents. Otherwise, I find little of consequence stemming from her speech. She loves her husband. Apparently, he was a real sweetheart when they were dating. (And I care, why?) Being a mom is super-duper important (and apparently most of all to Republican moms). And she played her medical history as a political chit, as Pundit Mom so perfectly called out.
Look, I married my high school sweetheart (really), am a mother, and I struggle with a life-long illness that can be debilitating at times. These things are parts of my life. But they don’t imbue me with special powers. They also don’t serve as a a cloak of sincerity or even goodness. Being a mother does not automatically mean you are good person or that all mothers have the same experience. Marriage, a class not even available to all, is not a magic union. And there is no inherent nobility to having an illness.
As I have often said, motherhood is only transformational if you want it to be. I would add to motherhood many other life experiences. Life is only transformational if you want it to be. And those transformations are not always good.
Now, let me be clear, I am not trying to say that Ann Romney is not a good person. I am not saying that it is not remarkable to be a survivor of breast cancer and to be successfully dealing with MS. Good for her. I know more than one person living with MS and it is a miserable, painful, and often humiliating disease, taking pieces of one’s autonomy bit by bit. Likewise, I have lost two dear loved ones to cancer and count two members of my family who are survivors of breast cancer. These diseases are horrible. The fights to persevere through them are at times devastating, humbling, unfair, and quite brutal. I just don’t want to see those silent battles played like an item on a check-list of political strategy — with the same weight and value as evaluating the most persuasive color suit or lipstick.
But I digress. My point is, there was nothing that Ann Romney was going to say that was going to make me want to vote for Mitt Romney. Admittedly, there will probably be very little said in next week’s Democratic National Convention that makes a difference in my vote either. I’ve already made up my mind. I know who I’m voting for and why.
I did waffle in my choice about watching the RNC, momentarily. I turned on the convention last night long enough to see my own governor, Brian Sandoval, deliver a six-minute, stale, rhetoric-filled speech. Let me start with something positive: Sandoval did a brilliant job mentioning as often as possible that he is Hispanic (and by proxy he represents Hispanics everywhere, one assumes). This seems to be a pretty consistent theme in Republican messaging right now. They hurt in every demographic except Rich White Guy, so they must prop up a non-white, non-male person as much as possible. See! Here’s a Hispanic Republican! See! Here’s a woman — she’s got lady parts (which frighten us)! So, well done on being Hispanic, Brian Sandoval. As my two-year-old says when she runs around the house naked, “Ta-Da!”
But aside from his super-Hispanic-y-ness — which must pack neatly in a duffel bag because it rarely makes appearances in Brian Sandoval’s public life unless it’s politically helpful — the speech was a dud. Sandoval sucks at giving speeches. He generally has speechifying abilities that fall somewhere between Sens. Harry Reid and John Kerry (see I can make fun of Democrats, too). Indeed, as was reported on Face to Face with Jon Ralston, Sandoval’s speech was poorly attended. And the Washington Post listed it as a “loser.” But, we all know that giving good speeches is no mark for political ascendency. Just look at Georg W. He could barely string three sentences together and he was president for eight years. Ta-Da!
No, why I nearly went into cardiac arrest while watching Sandoval speak was not because he sucks at speeches. That pounding in my chest was because I could barely take all the out-right lying and revisionist history Sandoval was spewing. He said we needed to get rid of big government because it isn’t working. That’s funny coming from the governor of the state with the worst rates in joblessness, foreclosures, bankruptcies, credit scores, and has just been named 50th in education. That makes Nevada dead last in anything that might matter to, say, a company that might move here and help diversify our economy, provide new jobs, bring new people to buy up empty homes… Meanwhile, he’s done little in his time in office besides block a fundamentally necessary makeover of Nevada’s tax structure — to make us less dependent on the fickle ups and downs of a tourism economy. (Why would you want to do that?) Never mind the (presumably, big bad) government stimulus money that Sen. Reid brought in to get people back to work. What a douchebag that Sen. Reid is. How could he help people like that?
The idea that Sandoval has any experience in improving the livelihood of my state, which by most quality of life indexes is circling the drain, is not only laughable, it’s demonstrably untrue. And when you throw in all the stock Republican phrases, suggesting that President Obama is at all responsible for the recession (Wall Street had its worst week in history in October 2008) or the foreclosures crisis (Nevada home prices peaked in 2006 and Las Vegas was already topping foreclosure lists in February 2008), well, then my head starts spinning and I have to start breathing into a paper bag. Wasn’t that under Pres. Bush’s watch? I know. I know. I am just a slave to facts. I am just held captive by my front-row seat in the nation’s hardest hit state during one of the worst economic meltdowns in modern history. Silly me.
Truthfully, I’m just really fucking tired of all the lies. I’m tired of people lying about what has happened in the past five years — because you are lying to yourself if you think all this just started four years ago. I’m tired of people talking to me like I haven’t lived it. And this goes for both parties. All parties. I’m just sick of feeling like the hard times we’ve gone through — economic, medical, what-have-you — are a mere bargaining chip for someone’s political ambition.
In the end, that’s why I only watched one speech last night. And I won’t watch anymore of the RNC. And I may just keep the TV off all next week, too. Does that make me a bad political blogger? Maybe. But does it help me stay sane in an insane election season? You bet!