Now featured on the website: James T. Kloppenberg examines the rhetoric of the party conventions, and evaluates President Obamas acceptance speech in the context of his record:
The juxtapositions between the two conventions were jarring and emblematic. In the space of just a couple of weeks, Americans watched as the jagged fragments of their nation seemed to drift further apart. Republicans reveled in the glories of private enterprise, marveled at the promise of unregulated capitalism, and denigrated those who look to government rather than the free market for solutions. By contrast, Democrats celebrated togetherness and ridiculed the selfishness of those who trumpet American individualism and neglect the importance of community. Although Republicans excoriate Obama as a socialist bent on destroying capitalism at home and apologizing for American power abroad, their demonology was as empty as the chair to which Clint Eastwood delivered his bewildering soliloquy in Tampa. Obamas record, from his days as a community organizer through his years at the Harvard Law School and his service in the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate, shows that he has been committed to incremental progress through persuasion rather than arm twisting, painstaking consensus-building rather than power politics. He has consistently refused to denigrate the integrity or deny the intelligence of those who disagree with him. His steadfast commitment to respecting his foes, of course, has infuriated his most enthusiastic liberal supporters, who projected onto him their own dogmatic certainties and their own disrespect of their opponents. Even in Charlotte, where he gently mocked the Republicans reliance on tax cutting and deregulation as their only ideas, he embraced Franklin Roosevelts spirit of experimentation and again proclaimed his unflagging eagerness for bipartisan solutions because no party has a monopoly on good ideas. Obamas commitment to deliberative decision-making is not merely strategic. Instead it springs from his sober understanding that democracy requires a willingness to cooperate. Intransigence, as Americans have long understood and as we have seen demonstrated since the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, brings democracy to a halt.