A tale of two conventions

Politics you should care about for the week 8/28/20

Jackson Rudoff, Copy Editor

National party conventions have, for at least the last few decades, become a political red carpet of sorts. For the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in particular, which regularly sees itself supported by “Hollywood elites,” it wasn’t difficult to put on a show for the delegates in attendance. And while the Republican National Convention (RNC) has had its stranger moments ahead of elections—such as Clint Eastwood’s bizarre conversation with an empty chair—it rarely needs to stoop to theatrics to get across a diehard patriotic message.

Both parties, however, faced a new challenge this year: How do you manage the gathering of thousands of party members amidst a pandemic, especially ahead of what will be a largely “remote” election day? 

The DNC’s convention took the form of a mixture of Zoom calls, livestreams and pre-recorded events. It made for, in all, a rather strange ordeal that still packed all the star power that Democratic voters have grown accustomed to. Former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton spoke, as well as former first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. Democrats who only recently entered the spotlight also made appearances, with Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Representative Stacey Abrams anchoring Monday and Tuesday’s festivities, respectively. It all culminated, of course, in Joe Biden’s acceptance of the Democratic nomination for president. 

The overall effect was that of a movie you’re watching for the second time. You know how it’s going to end, but there are still some good moments along the way that draw you back in. 

The RNC, which began this past Monday, August 24, has taken an approach that perhaps many saw coming. Rather than focus on unity and broad appeal, as the Democrats tended to do, President Donald Trump, who made a surprise appearance in North Carolina, and his guests spoke primarily to his base. The tactic was largely unsurprising for most pundits, who have remarked that his strategy—or at least, whatever ends up happening when he gets on stage—has largely targeted those who were going to support him anyway. 

This remained true on Monday in his speech after receiving the Republican nomination. It included notable quotes like “They’re using COVID to steal the election,” and “If you really want to drive them crazy, you say 12 more years.” 

Unapologetic speakers, a live audience and an appearance by Mark and Patricia McCloskey, whose claim to fame is standing on their porch armed while Black Lives Matter protestors walked down the road, have made the RNC a slightly more surreal experience than that of its left-wing counterpart. Nevertheless, with the event still ongoing, little more can be said until it’s all wrapped up. 

What can be said at this point for sure, however, is that the presentation and execution of each event can be taken as representative of how each party will treat COVID-19 if reelected. The pandemic has not gone away, even though the Republicans appear to be treating the calamity as though it is on pause.

Politics You Shouldn’t Care About

Okay, I recognize that this is a strange and, by virtue of it being in a newspaper, fairly hypocritical inclusion. However, given that many of us are in the middle of reacclimating to new university policies, unable to receive mail through the U.S. Postal Service and still navigating the typical election-year politics, saying there’s a lot going on at the moment would be an understatement.

But what does not help our state of confusion and distraction is focusing on the wrong stuff being said by the wrong people. In this age where accuracy of information is oh-so important, being cognizant of where you’re getting it from is perhaps the most crucial political choice you can make these days.

COVID-19 practices have been politicized. Police ethics—or at least the plea that they kill fewer people—remain politicized. Even opening up universities and returning to what we consider “college life” has been politicized. 

What matters most in this situation, then, is not that we are reading every bit of information that we can on issues, but ensuring that the information we do receive is high quality.

One of the primary purposes of essay writing is ultimately to be persuasive, which means that our sources of information cannot necessarily be the op-ed sections of newspapers. 

When you read something, don’t presume that publication indicates total accuracy. One could consume every op-ed in the New York Times every day, but this would honestly do little else except immerse them in a cacophonous chamber of hastily-written perspectives. All writing ultimately comes from individuals, and like these writers, you are an individual. 

Though the premise of this article is to present what you should care about, I should at least remind our readers that your own conclusions should be just that: your own.