It has been a long time since a presidential nomination has actually been determined at a national political convention. The drama is gone, but the conventions still serve their purpose, as they did this month.
Television viewers could sense the dramatic contrasts between the Republican convention in Cleveland and the Democratic convention in Philadelphia with the sound off. Cleveland offered a sea of angry white faces. Philadelphia, beyond the first day when the Bernie Sanders forces purged their justifiable anger at Democratic National Committee (DNC) shenanigans, offered joyful faces of many hues.
A Republican Party that has long been trumpeting its Reagan era "Morning in America" optimism, even when it no longer applied, surrendered that mantle in Cleveland. The convention mirrored the anger, bitterness, resentment and entitlement that its standard-bearer, Donald Trump, both exemplifies and exploits. These are unappealing traits in a party and a candidate.
With Republicans abandoning hope and optimism, Democrats embraced their own version of "Morning in America," with presidential nominee Hillary Clinton completing that transition in her acceptance speech Thursday night. Mr. Trump's relentless and baseless demeaning of America and enthusiasm for a Russian dictator deprives the GOP of its claim that it has cornered the market on patriotism. In contrast, one Democratic speaker after another celebrated the nation's greatness while acknowledging the problems it will take a team effort to surmount.
Vermont Senator Sanders' gracious endorsement speech largely defused his presidential campaign supporters' disappointment as well as their anger over DNC bias revealed through hacked emails. Mr. Trump, however, played a huge role in turning a Democratic Party problem into his own headache.
Imagine the furor if former Secretary of State Clinton had urged a communist superpower to engage in espionage on U.S. soil against the Republican Party. The cries would have gone beyond "lock her up." Yet Republicans are largely giving Mr. Trump a pass for doing exactly that. Mr. Trump now claims he was joking when he urged Russia, the likely source of the DNC's hacked emails, to find and release more of them, but he was clearly not. And if he had been joking, it would have further demonstrated his alarming lack of gravitas, a quality a president must possess.
Considering his four bankruptcy filings and record of stiffing contractors and others on his building projects, Mr. Trump's claim that his business background has prepared him for the presidency is an insult to businessmen. Michael Bloomberg, an honorable and successful businessman and proven public servant as mayor of New York, thoroughly dismantled Mr. Trump's argument in endorsing Secretary Clinton. "I'm a New Yorker, and New Yorkers know a con when we see one," declared the former mayor. With due respect to the insight of New Yorkers, anyone should be able to see through Mr. Trump's con.
The convention had a wistful tone to it as the party said its farewell to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, whose rousing, emotional speeches were convention highlights. In the face of partisan, groundless and brutally personal attacks, the couple never failed to demonstrate grace and class. As Michelle Obama said, "When they go low, we go high."
The president's hysterical critics called him a tyrant for enacting executive orders, just as his Republican predecessors did, and today, Republicans have embraced as their standard-bearer a man who is promising to rule as a tyrant. A "homegrown demagogue" to borrow from the president. President Obama will be missed for his accomplishments, his humor, and his poise in response to the bile and spite he regularly confronted. The extent of how much he will be missed will be determined by November's presidential election.