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Monday, September 28, 2020
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Elections Campaign Trail Convention, Day One: It's all about "together."

Convention, Day One: It’s all about “together.”

Can a message of unity work today -- or do the key voters want someone who will fight for their interests against the oligarchs?

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The word of the day was “together.” We hear it all the time in Democratic Party circles, usually from the more centrist side. It’s up there with “unite.” (Remember Barack Obama’s 2004 convention speech, the one that made him a candidate for president? His signature line was “there are no red states and blue states. There is just the United States.”)

Contrast that with the other key word we hear in politics a lot, particularly from the more progressive side of the party: “Fight.”

Michelle Obama gave a moving speech calling for unity.

“Together” means we are all friends and allies, working to “unite” this great land and not to “divide” it. (“Divisive” is a term commonly used by the center to attack the left. We heard it a lot in the early days of same-sex marriage, when the likes of Sen. Dianne Feinstein worried about equal marriage rights “dividing” the nation. When she was mayor, she once vetoed a resolution calling for Reproductive Rights Day in San Francisco, saying it was “too divisive.”)

“Fight” means there is something to fight for – and someone to fight against. It means that no, we are not all on the same team – that there are a small number of people of all political parties who hold massive wealth and power, and they are holding onto that at the expense of the rest of us (of all political parties).

It means there are horrible racists out there who want a White Supremacist nation, and they have to be defeated.

When Jane Kim ran for state Senate against Scott Wiener, she had an ad showing her in full Tae Kwon Do uniform doing spin kicks; the message was “she will fight for you.” The word “fight” was used five times in the ad, and the slogan at the end was “join the fight.”

I heard the word “fight” exactly once last night, from Bernie Sanders, in his exceptional speech toward the end of the night:

This election is the most important in the modern history of this country. In response to the unprecedented crises we face, we need an unprecedented response—a movement, like never before, of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency—and against greed, oligarchy, and bigotry.

Sanders was also the only person I heard who mentioned greed and oligarchy.

Michelle Obama was, to no surprise, the start of the night. She was also all about conciliation – to a point:

But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.

The Biden campaign team (which has already taken over Kamala Harris’ operation and it clearly in full control of all messaging) has decided that the way to win this election is to two things: Attack Trump and say that the nation “needs to come together.”

The first is easy and of course has to be part of the strategy. There are former Trump voters who have soured on him, and a tiny sliver of still “undecided” voters (how anyone can still be undecided now is mindboggling) who could be approached. It might not take many; as Obama pointed out, Trump’s margin of victory in at least one swing state was two votes per precinct.

But the reason the Democrats lost four years ago was in part because their voters didn’t turn out in large enough numbers. And to get those reluctant voters, in the swing states, during a pandemic, my require more than a promise of “togetherness” (and even a “return to normal.)” It’s going to require the candidates to say they are ready to fight for working people – not work “together” with Goldman-Sachs.

Let’s see if they can make those two messages work – together.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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