Rev. Jesse Jackson
Inevitably, the Democratic Party fest in Charlotte, N.C., will be compared to last week’s Republican gathering in Tampa, Fla. The speeches by the vice president and president will be contrasted with those of Republican nominees Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney.
The Republican convention was marked by patriotic rhetoric, Horatio Alger tales of upward mobility and a diverse lineup of speakers presenting to the overwhelmingly white, older and affluent delegates. Democrats are not lacking for patriotic salutes, uplifting tales and diverse speakers. They are addressing a crowd that is younger and more diverse than the Republican crowd. But the starkest contrast will be drawn by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden if they offer the one thing absent from the Republican convention: truth-telling.
For example, Romney opened his speech by describing our expectations when Obama was elected. Families, he said, wanted to “get ahead a little more,” small-business owners wanted “the best years ever” and our nation was expecting to “start paying down the national debt.”
What planet was Romney on? On the day Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, he inherited an economy that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lost 779,000 jobs that month. The world teetered on the edge of financial collapse and global depression.
Workers were laid off, took pay and benefit cuts, swallowed furloughs without pay. Home values plummeted, wiping out the leading source of wealth for everyone outside the very few. Contrary to Romney, we weren’t expecting a walk on the beach; we were looking for help in a brutal storm. Biden and Obama might do well to remind people of the reality that they saved an economy that was in free fall.
Similarly absent from the Romney and Ryan speeches was mention of the Bush-era policies that drove this economy off the cliff. These included tax cuts largely for the rich, deregulation of big banks, organized assault on unions, record trade deficits, jobs sent abroad, record budget deficits driven by not paying for the tax cuts or two disastrous wars – all of which were championed by Paul Ryan in Congress.
Romney and Ryan couldn’t mention these because that would be an indictment of their agenda. Obama and Biden could benefit by laying out this simple truth.
Or consider the contrast between the pieties of the Republican speeches and the reality of their platform and budgets. Romney expressed concern for the poor, but his budget would throw many more children into poverty and inflict savage cuts on the limited support we offer those in need.
He spoke of his concern about the costs of college, but his budget would slash support for Pell scholarships for deserving students. The Bible says you judge a tree by the fruit that it bears, not the bark that it wears. The president and vice president might remind people of that simple truth, too.
Romney and Ryan spoke eloquently about the rights of Americans, but didn’t mention voting rights. Perhaps that’s because the Republican Party is driving the worst assault on voting rights since the days of Jim Crow, cynically limiting early voting and demanding costly new forms of official ID designed to make it harder for the poor, minorities and young to vote.
As the president and vice president put the final touches on their convention speeches, they might just consider doing what their Republican counterparts failed to do. And that is to tell the truth.