The Blog

A Party of Hope?

Not last night.

3:00 PM, Jul 29, 2004 • By DAVID SKINNER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION has not been unified by single policy or campaign promise. ,hey talk of hope and the like, but they don't deliver. It's been more or less a parade of Democratic stand-bys from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton to Al Sharpton, each in turn giving their spiel. And last night at the convention, we had Sharpton and John Edwards.

The New York reverend who first came to public notice by slandering six white men with phony rape charges has developed into a fine speaker. He is certainly the most accomplished race baiter of his day.

His high rhetoric is matched only by his low politics, but who can escape marveling at passages like this one: "It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule. That is where the argument, to this day, for reparations begins. We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover and we never got the 40 acres. We didn't get the mule, so we decided to ride this donkey as far it would take us."

Sharpton represents the grievance wing of the Democratic party. Party operatives and torch-bearers like Edwards may speak of hope and optimism but these late converts to the gospel of Steve Forbes actually practice the politics of grievance, with its sullen themes of racial spoils and class warfare. To listen to the millionaire trial lawyer John Edwards last night, one would think, we were lumbering out of the depression: "We have millions of Americans who work full-time every day to support their families, working for minimum wage, and still live in poverty."

For a man who made his fortune socking it to corporate America in class-action lawsuits--the closest thing we have to a Marxist redistribution of capital in this country--to be preaching of grit and hard work is pretty ripe. But like his warm-up speaker, Sharpton, Kerry proved to be a beautiful speaker last night, continuing a trend that began with Bill Clinton.

The Democratic party is the party of political showmanship, of smooth talkers and finger crossers. Edwards disparages negative politics, while the left-wing of his party breathes life into his campaign with the purest vitriol and contempt.

The message of the Democratic convention so far this week has been that the Democrats are the party of grievance. The party of anger and bitterness. Hope may be on the way, but it's not at the convention.

David Skinner is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.