|Let the Campaign Begin
The night Al Gore planted the Big Smooch on Tipper on national television was the night this election season truly started. In his Democratic National Convention speech that followed, Mr. Caution tossed caution to the wind by spelling out fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans.
We don't make a habit in our regional newspaper of writing about national politics. But since we were in Los Angeles for the Democratic convention and in Philadelphia for the GOP gathering before that, we wanted to share some of our thoughts and those of Chesapeake Country delegates we spoke to in those cities.
And since we don't endorse candidates of any stripe, we hope you'll trust us from time to time to enlighten you on the political goings-on.
First, the Republicans. We thought there was too much joking about the GOP "masquerade ball" of minorities on stage. (Jay Leno said he thought he had accidentally switched over to awards night on Soul Train.) Granted, the Republican Party hasn't been a comfortable home for African Americans for many decades. Hispanics, too, have voted overwhelmingly Democratic.
But we think that Texas Gov. George W. Bush's message of inclusion was not just smart politics but the right thing to do. We cringe when recalling past GOP conventions (Houston in 1992, for instance) when hard-edged moralists talked from the podium about building walls around America.
In Philadelphia, Del. Tony O'Donnell, from Calvert County, identified another welcome trend: the tendency (with a few exceptions) to stick to issues and avoid relentless attacks. "There's not the negative, harsh tone of the past," O'Donnell said.
In Los Angeles, Calvert County delegate Wilson Parran also spoke of moderation. Unlike some African Americans at the convention, Parran was not skeptical about Gore's choice of Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running-mate; despite Lieberman's conservative approach to issues like education and affirmative action.
"He has selected somebody with integrity. It makes it very difficult for Republicans to use the L-word," Parran said, referring to "liberal."
Within the rhetoric was a clear presentation of differences between the priorities of the Democratic and Republican candidates in this election. Two weeks before, Bush pledged to confront hard issues like national security and push for a tax cut much deeper than Gore wants.
Until Gore's acceptance speech, the election was looking blurry. But Gore drew clear distinctions, taking aim at "big tobacco, big oil, the big polluters, the pharmaceutical companies, the HMOs."
Now the ball is in our court. This is not just a popularity contest between two middle-of-the-road baby-boomers. There are differences, and it's our duty to know that.