Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

And the Nominees for Best Political Actor Are ...

(Flickr/NewsHour)
Before Mitt Romney takes the stage today to deliver his acceptance speech, we'll probably get to see a biographical video explaining who Romney is, where he comes from, what he believes, and why he's right for America. The convention film has become one of the centerpieces of these gatherings, so we thought we'd take a little tour of some of the best films from the past to see what makes a good convention film and we might be in for. The convention film may not seem like such a big deal when the campaigns put out videos of some kind or another nearly every day, but it's their only chance to have a highly produced ten minutes or so viewed by tens of millions of voters, all at the same time. The best convention films have managed to unite the candidate's story with our own stories—how we see ourselves and how we see our country. But it took a while for them to become really effective pieces of propaganda, even though campaign films have existed in one form or another nearly as long as...

A Star Is Born

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican vice presidential nominee, Representative Paul Ryan, joined by his familyafter his acceptance speech during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. By the time Paul Ryan finished speaking on Wednesday night, Mitt Romney’s place in the new Republican order had become clear: Win or lose, he’s the placeholder for Paul Ryan until Ryan himself can run for president. In his vice-presidential acceptance speech, Ryan accomplished two distinct tasks: He delivered the convention’s first telling attack on the Obama Administration, and he seized the mantle of leader of the American conservative movement. Ryan’s Obama attacks resonated, as the other convention speeches have not, because at least some of them were partly true. To be sure, he alluded, as all Republican speakers apparently must, to Obama’s supposed dismissal of small businessmen, which never happened. He conjured the specter of an all-encompassing welfare state, a hoary Republican...

Not Your Grandma’s Republican Party

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) This is a general view during the opening of the Republican National Convention in the Coliseum in Chicago, Ill., June 8, 1920. The Republican National Convention released its platform yesterday during the big opening day of its weeklong event—only slightly punctuated by the weather—and to no one’s surprise, it was chock-full of regressive policy ideas that seek to push the United States back a few decades or centuries. But it wasn’t always that way. The Prospect dug through the history books and found the parts of past Republican Party platforms that the current members don’t care to remember—and that we think are pretty great. Below are some of the best ideas the GOP ever promulgated. 1860: Ending Slavery “…the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom: That, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that 'no persons should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due...

Ann Romney's Fail

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Early in their careers, almost all journalists hear the same piece of advice: Show, don’t tell. Give an anecdote, provide some detail, offer something that demonstrates the point you’re trying to make. It would have been good advice for Ann Romney. It's not that her convention speech was poorly delivered. The would-be first lady has a Junior League likability—she's sweet and charming, if a bit removed from the average life of most Americans. The random cry of “I love women” was at least overt and obvious in its effort to close the gender gap the GOP currently faces. Even her nervousness had its appeal Tuesday night—she delivered her speech a little too fast, proving once again that she’s human. But Ann Romney had one job to do: Give us some reason—any reason—to believe her husband isn’t some cold-hearted automaton. On that count,...

Should Labor Boycott Charlotte?

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
The Democratic National Convention is less than a week away, and liberals are getting fired up. But at least one of the party's key constituencies isn’t quite so excited. That group is organized labor. Last July’s announcement that the convention would be held in the staunchly anti-union city of Charlotte, North Carolina—the least unionized state in the country—set off a firestorm of protest in the labor movement. A year later, dissatisfaction still simmers, and there's a case to be made for an unprecedented move. The message is simple: maybe labor should sit this one out. To a large extent, politics is about resources. How an organization decides to deploy those it has available says a lot about its values and priorities. So why would labor want to channel limited funds into bolstering a local economy organized around avowedly anti-union principles? By opting for North Carolina as a convention destination, rather than a swing state with stronger union infrastructure such as Ohio or...

Chris Christie's Dark Vision for America

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. Ann Romney’s speech to the Republican National Convention was supposed to be about love—the love she has for husband, and the love they hope they can share and show to the country. It was a nice riff, and would have been a great way to the end the night. Instead, it was the warm-up to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had a different message : Forget love, the only thing that matters is respect . “I believe we have become paralyzed by our desire to be loved,” said Christie, urging Republicans—and voters—to abandon the search for a candidate they like and instead choose someone who would get things done. What’s odd is that this wasn’t a pitch for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor didn’t make an appearance until late in the speech, and even then, he was presented in terms ludicrous to anyone with even a cursory knowledge...

Ann Romney Coos while Chris Christie Fizzles

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applwhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applwhite) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie leaves the stage after addressing the Republican National Convention in Tampa yesterday. Like Caesar’s Gaul, the first night of the Republicans’ Convention was divided into three parts: the Diversity Hour, the Caring Wife, and the Chris Christie Anti-Climax. Much of the art of the convention these days is devoted to convincing viewers that we—the elected officials and their spouses at the podium—are just like you. At Republican conventions, this means assuring racial minorities that, although they may not see people who look like them when the cameras pan the hall, there are actually black and Latino Republicans—especially Latino, since the Republicans don’t really expect to pick up more than a handful of black votes anyway. But it also means assuring working- and middle-class voters that, notwithstanding party tax policies that hugely favor the very rich, there are actually very rich Republicans who can remember times...

When Mitt Romney Stops Being Polite ... And Starts Getting Real

You won't be seeing this at the RNC.
Assuming the Republican convention doesn't get cancelled altogether, the GOP will be trying to "humanize" Mitt Romney, so that American voters will come to realize that he is, in fact, a human. And apparently, Republican bigwigs are concerned that the Romney campaign hasn't yet, and may not ever, put the proper effort into this task. According to Politico , they're grumbling about Romney's inability to respond effectively to attacks on him for not releasing his taxes, and are worried that the convention won't be enough about Romney the man. As for Mitt himself, he seems to be attempting a kind of jiu-jitsu on this question. Here's my favorite part: In a Saturday interview with POLITICO, Romney rejected what he suggested was a sort of political cosmetic surgery advocated by political or media commentators who say he needs to overhaul his image. Paraphrasing Popeye, Romney said, "I am who I am." It was a line that suggested a kind of genial freedom from artifice — an impression that was...

The Hidden GOP Convention

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Illustrations by DonkeyHotey (Flickr) If you tune in to the networks' prime-time coverage of the Republican National Convention, you'll see the big speeches, learn what Karl Rove thinks about Mitt Romney's chances (prediction: Rove is bullish), and hear a lot of people extoll Romney's can-do spirit and well-groomed family. But there's another side to the gathering, beyond the silly hats, arguments over arcane convention rules, and general whoopin' and hollerin'. After extensive reporting, placing of hidden listening devices, and a greased palm or two, we have assembled this guide to the hidden RNC, to give you a window into the convention only the insiders know about. Though the official story had it that Monday's events were cancelled due to the imminent arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac, we have it on good authority that the problem was actually the delayed arrival of Iggy. In every Republican convention since 1980, official activities cannot commence until a bull is sacrificed to...

Seriously, There's Good News For Ohio Voters

(AP Photo/ Dayton Daily News, Bill Reinke)
For voting rights activists, the news coming out of Ohio hasn't been promising—the secretary of state has limited early voting hours and a state law stopped all voting the three days before Election Day. Both decisions have a disproportionate impact on poor and nonwhite voters, who vote in particularly heavy numbers during the early period. But Monday brought some good news for vote defenders in the Buckeye State. In 2008, around 14,000 voters had their ballots thrown out because they cast provisional ballots in the wrong precinct. Often, it was a poll worker who had made the error, but it was the voter who was punished. But thanks to an injunction granted by a U.S. district judge Monday, that measure will not be in effect in the 2012 elections. The Service Employees International Union brought the suit, represented by lawyers from the Advancement Project, a voting rights group that’s been involved in several of the voter ID challenges around the country. The plaintiffs argued the...

Mitt in the Mud

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Mitt Romney gives a thumbs up as he leaves Brewster Academy after finishing convention preparations yesterday. In an interview with USA Today this weekend, Mitt Romney attacked President Obama for running a “sad” and “vituperative” campaign. He accused the president of channeling negativity and trying to tarnish the former Massachusetts governor's image with voters rather than debate the issues. The attacks on Bain Capital, the insinuations about his tax returns—they’re tactics to avoid discussing the weak economy. This is what you would expect an opposing candidate to say, but that doesn’t make it any less potent as a message. Voters always say they are tired of negative campaigning, and candidates who brand themselves as “positive” can capitalize on that fact—even as they themselves run negative ads (cf. Obama, 2008). Which is why Romney should be worried by his low standing with voters. In the interview, he dismisses the idea that voters will decide on the...

Fear Not the Bump

Don't let this worry you.
Since I write about politics for a living, my family and friends often ask me for my opinions about matters political, and in recent days these queries have taken on an edge—not quite panic, but let's call it worry. "Romney doesn't really have a chance, does he?" one person asked me yesterday with a quaver in her voice. Well, sure he has a chance, I replied. I'm still fairly confident that Obama is going to win in the end, but Romney does have a chance. Which brings us to this week and the Republican convention. Right now, the race is essentially tied. If you look at averages of the polls, you see anything from an Obama advantage of about a point (that's what the Pollster.com average has, as does the Real Clear Politics average ) to a Romney advantage of half a point (that's what the TPM average has). On the other hand, everybody sees a substantial advantage for Obama in the electoral college. But this is a good time for liberals to prepare themselves for something: at the end of this...

The Projection Party

(Rex Features via AP Images)
Of all the things Republicans have called President Obama in the last four years—socialist, radical, un-American, anti-American, elitist—perhaps the strangest is "divisive." It seems so odd to the rest of us when we look at Obama, whose entire history, even from childhood, has been about carefully navigating through opposing ideas, resolving contradictions, and diffusing tensions, who has so often infuriated his supporters with compromises and attempts at conciliation. Yet conservatives look at him and see someone completely different. They see Obama plotting to set Americans at war with one another so he can profit from the destruction, perhaps cackling a sinister laugh as thunder rattles the windows on the West Wing and America's demise is set in motion. There has seldom been a clearer political case of what psychologists call "projection," the propensity to ascribe to someone else one's own thoughts, feelings, and sins. It's true that we are in a polarized moment, and what is...

Why Did the Republicans Pick Hurricane-Prone Tampa?

While Tampa is subject to disruptive hurricanes from time to time, for either party it is an attractive pick in other ways. First, Florida is the mother of all swing states with the most electoral votes (29) of any swing state. Tampa is in Hillsborough County, which gave Bush 53 percent in 2004 and Obama 53 percent in 2008, so it is a large (1.2 million people) swing county. Neighboring counties, including Hernando, Pasco, and Polk are reddish, and Romney needs to win big there to counter expected losses in South Florida. The area has also been hit hard economically, so an economic pitch is likely to resonate. All in all, the area is a big battleground. Showering attention on it is a smart move for the Republicans.

The Strange Disappearance of George W. Bush

Hey, everybody! Remember me? (photo by the White House)
Kevin Drum asks an interesting question : what ever became of George W. Bush? Not so much literally—I've always assumed that he spends his days playing "Call of Duty: Black Ops" with bored Secret Service agents—but as a presence in our national life. It's partly because, as Kevin notes, his own party wants nothing to do with him, since most of his big projects turned out to be colossal failures. If Republicans don't want to talk about him, then we can't have an ongoing argument about his legacy, since one side of that argument changes the subject every time he comes up. But as Kevin says, "It's just sort of astonishing that a guy who was president only three years ago, and who loomed so large for both liberals and conservatives, has disappeared down the memory hole so completely. In the end, for all his swagger, he was a mile wide and an inch deep. Once he left the White House, it was as if his entire presidency had just been a bad dream." In some ways, this is more remarkable on the...

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