The Feelings Convention
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - If the Republican National Convention was all about the numbers -- unemployment numbers, deficit numbers, tax rates -- the Democratic National Convention thus far has been all about feelings.
The keynote address on Tuesday night was delivered by Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, who proclaimed that numbers didn't matter -- Barack Obama was the only candidate who could "multiply" individual success.
And the capper of the evening went to Michelle Obama, who boldly stated, "I've seen how the issues that come across a president's desk are always the hard ones -- the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer."
When it comes to economics, of course, this is bull. Numbers generally dictate the right answer. Tax rates dictate how hard people will work and how much they will be penalized for working. Spending dictates tax rates. Unionization rates and minimum wage dictate hiring practices. And so on.
But Michelle Obama wants us to eschew numbers, because numbers don't favor her husband. Instead, she wants us to recapture the feelings we had for President Barack Obama. "Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago," she intoned. And because she loves him, we must.
Her plea for her incompetent husband focused on his feelings, too. He may be a terrible president, she seemed to argue, but he cares. "That's the man I see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him. ... I see the concern in his eyes ... and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, 'You won't believe what these folks are going through, Michelle ... it's not right. We've got to keep working to fix this. We've got so much more to do."
But doing the wrong thing is worse than doing nothing. And Obama has done the wrong thing. When caring trumps logic, when feelings trump reason, we get rotten governance.
The Obama team is hoping that we overlook the rotten governance in favor of the wellspring of feeling Democrats so clearly have. That's why they've painted Mitt Romney as an uncaring, unfeeling management type. Sure, he may cut the budget. Sure, he may lower taxes. But does he care?
Obama combines the appeal of Clintonian politics with the failure of Carterism. That's a tension that will be difficult to bridge. But it's also a test of the American people. Will they buy into the feelings? Or will they opt out of the record?
Michelle Obama and company are clearly hoping that the feelings will trump the record. And they had better. That's why they're campaigning on fear and falsifying Obama's "unifying" tone and tenor. If they can manipulate the emotions of the American people, they will win. If the American people apply common sense, they will lose.