Why Tonight is the Most Important Night of the Convention

The big name speeches tonight are going to be the new Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden, and former President Bill Clinton; that’s a big enough billing alone to indicate the importance of the night.  But the mere star power is not what will make this the most important night of the convention.

Admittedly, in the context of the near term horse race, last night and tomorrow night are far more important.  Last night’s Hillary Clinton speech and tomorrow night’s Barack Obama speech are the anticipated moments of the four day event, and thus are the moments that would be most credited for any bounce that may or may not occur.

And if the election were in two weeks, that would make them the two most important nights of this week.  But the election isn’t two weeks away, it’s two months away; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

In that context, tonight’s far more important because the central theme of the evening will be centered around National Security and Foreign Policy.  A recent poll had Obama trailing John McCain by almost thirty points on the subject of terrorism, and almost fifteen points regarding the Iraq War.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; Democrats hardly ever poll as well as Republicans on National Security and Foreign Policy, even when non politician based polling would appear to indicate that the public is more in agreement with Democrats.  Further, this damages Democrats in elections despite general polling or polling on more friendly domestic policies because the safety of one’s family, the possibility of major attacks on our cities and homes, triggers a Terror Management Theory reaction in many voters which has the ability to override one’s potential to vote on economic issues or other domestic issues.

But it’s also not necessary for Obama to win the polling on these issues.  He just has to close the gap.  In a race that is as close as it is with Obama suffering such foreign policy and national security deficits as he does suggests that if he can just narrow the gap a little he’ll do quite well.

And that’s where tonight is.  Tonight is not about winning the debate on national security and foreign policy, but instead it is about two things.  The first is making it clear that Obama is not going to run away from foreign policy, and the second is providing a thesis for an argument that will continue between now and November that Democrats generally, and Obama specifically, will keep America safer and stronger, while Republicans generally, and John McCain specifically is simply unsafe, and a risk we can’t afford to take.

On the first point, the significant part about this is understanding why Republicans win so much on foreign policy; because as a rule they are allowed to.  When Democrats run away from the issue, or spend all of their energy trying to change the subject to domestic issues, they automatically concede that Republicans are better equipped to handle things on the foreign front.  This allows Republicans to slide on simple, and often times silly foreign policy arguments that may sound feasible to low information voters, but don’t make a lick of sense if you actually understand what is going on.

Without challenging John McCain on foreign policy, you fail to make him display his knowledge, and thus the voting public will assume that he just automatically has it because of his biography.  That can’t be allowed to happen.  He needs to be asked on a regular basis to prove that he can understand the difference between Sunni and Shia, and which hostile groups are associated with which.  He needs to be forced to explain why his comparably thin philosophy would work.  Only then will McCain be exposed for what he really is; an empty suit on foreign policy that is relying on his years as a POW, and neoconservative precepts to make him sound more qualified than he really is.

On the second point, it’s a matter of turning the tables.  Republicans beat Democrats not because they make well argued cases for their approach to foreign policy that convinces Americans that their way is the right way; no, they do everything they possibly can to make sure that Americans are scared shitless of the Democratic candidate.  Why do you think the patriotism thing is a big deal, or the stupid Ayers flap?  Or the outright dishonest new McCain ad, “Tiny“?

It has little to do with some imaginary patriotism threshold, and everything to do with the fact that they are trying to paint him as someone who, if he gets into the Oval Office, will intentionally destroy the United States.  Barring that, they’ll settle for just painting Obama as fatally inadequate.

This must be countered, and the Obama campaign must push back with a similar narrative of its own, one that is at the very least more true; that McCain is a danger to America.  That he is grossly lacking in foreign policy knowledge and too hot-headed for someone with so little a grasp of the workings of the world.

Ron Beasley yesterday put up a post that shows what is all too possible in this election; the Republicans will rattle sabers (or even actually start a war)  which could give McCain the election.  There’s little we can do about their actions, but we, and most importantly the Obama campaign, can choose how we prepare for it.  The best and only way to do so is to go on offense when it comes to foreign policy, and that begins tonight.

6 Responses to “Why Tonight is the Most Important Night of the Convention”

  1. let me know what happens i will b sleep

  2. Gina says:

    D I S E N G E N U O U S N E S S …

    Everyone knows that Obama disrespected Bill Clinton …
    playing the race card on him, and trying to tarnish his
    record during the primaries … but, because of the
    disingenuous DNC, and Obama, and their putting party
    above country, and blackmailing the Clintons into
    supporting Obama … using their debt and Hillary’s
    future in politics as their leverage. Why should a
    successful and respected two term President like
    Bill Clinton have to stoop to the ambitions of the far
    left DNC, and their upstart, empty suit candidate …
    while disingenuously pretending that everybody has
    kissed and made up??? Also, the PUMAS and other
    Hillary supporters have had to endure the same
    condescending disrespect from them as well. I say
    the DNC and Obama made their bed, so let them lie
    in it … they deserve nothing more.

  3. Gina… seriously… take a pill.

  4. Or should I say T A K E A P I L L

  5. D Metzger says:

    You know, I hate scripted outrage. The fact that her lines break unnaturally is a dead giveaway that “Gina” is nothing but an outrage troll/bot. Best just to ignore her, she’ll probably never be back anyway.

  6. I’m covering it now.

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