“Fear is the lengthened shadow of ignorance.”
— Arnold Glasow
The DNC and RNC Zoom calls, posing as conventions, were all about shadows — not the parties or platforms themselves but perceptions of threats. The Republican Party decided, in another first, to not update its 2016 platform because, you know, not much has happened since Finding Dory and Lemonade dominated the box office and music charts and the Zika virus caused 5,230 symptomatic cases in the US, and one confirmed death.
“Make America great again, again” is the slogan, but the message is “I alone can fix these problems, even if they’re of my own making.” It’s more effective than it sounds. We gave Bush and Obama a second term to figure out Iraq and the economy, respectively.
The DNC Zoom theme was “don’t be afraid of us,” in contrast to the GOP’s “be afraid of them.” Biden argued America needs empathy and competence, and Trump laid out the case for a strongman.
“They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door.”
— Rep. Matt Gaetz
Democratic elder statesmen (or whoever has their hand on the Vice President’s back) decided to opt for the Neosporin of centrists (Kasich, Jones) and limited the cocaine (AOC) to one rail (96 seconds). Fun fact: I’d opt for the Bolivian marching powder, but they didn’t ask.
Actually, they did ask. My friend Tammy Haddad set up a dinner for a bunch of media types at a cool hotel in the East Village — when that was happening — with the charming guy running the DNC’s Zoom call, Joe Solmonese. The dinner started great: Steve Schmidt, the GOP strategist, took me aside and told me how much my book Algebra of Happiness had meant to him.
So, and there’s a lesson here, I now really like Steve. No joke, if you keep your admiration/appreciation to yourself, you are shutting off goodwill and opportunities for friendship. Steve, call me.
So, at the dinner, everyone was asked to offer their advice on the big event, and we went around the table. A lot of great ideas about healthcare, Democrats’ vision for the future, racial justice, unity, etc. My advice (no joke), was to stick to three key themes for the big event. Specifically, three call signs that would dictate all decisions about what people saw and felt at the convention:
My fellow diners seemed somewhere between unimpressed and uncomfortable — it’s not easy to be ageist, lookist, and racist in a 30-second speech. I never heard from Joe again. Tammy still thinks I’m the bomb though.
My thinking. Any great brand strategy clears three hurdles:
OK, hard to be more differentiated from the GOP Zoom call than young, hot, non-white people. Seriously, stand AOC and Yang next to Giuliani and McConnell. Box checked.
Ideas and youth are always relevant, as we want to live longer and believe if we herd with youth and ideas we might get to stick around longer. Walmart and Oracle bidding for TikTok is two midlife-crisis firms believing 15-second videos are hair plugs. If either go through with this, they’re going to look ridiculous. But I digress.
The future in America will be less white and less patriarchal. To be sustainable, look towards the future.
The most powerful moment for the DNC was Brayden Harrington, a 13-year-old with a stutter who said Joe Biden made him feel better about his speech impediment.
Powerful. This hit all the notes for Joe, an empathetic man who can make us all feel better. The most powerful moment for the RNC was unscripted. Footage of Senator Paul leaving the convention and being harassed by protestors plays into the GOP narrative. Again, Americans stand to choose a lawless president over lawlessness.
It all boils down to a simple contrast and decision being openly presented. The RNC: We’re the white patriarchy, and it works … vote for us. The DNC: We’re the future, but a noncarbonated future … with a skosh of white patriarchy. The Splenda of political parties.
How Trump Gets Reelected
Democrats are letting the GOP cast a long shadow of fear across America. Fear is typically more of a perception than an actual threat. Mark Twain said, “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which have happened.” Democrats could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and unwittingly reelect an incompetent president in the midst of a pandemic and recession, if we continue to make excuses for any looting and the irrational “defund the police” narrative. People are more afraid of the shadow (crime) than the object (criminal).
The real danger to the commonwealth is a party that determines they are not the party of Lincoln but of people who emerge from their homes, pace their lawns, and wave guns at Black people. The shadows distort the reality in the US: We are sick, living in chaos, and fearful.
Life is so rich,