Thursday, January 18, 2018
Opinion

Romney hopes sound and fury signify votes

Getting a convention crowd to stand up and bellow is not a tough trick. It doesn't matter if the crowd is Republican or Democratic. These people have been drinking for hours before they even get to the hall.

There is a constant background din on the convention floor and with the lights, the giant screens, the people lurching around with objets d'art on their heads, it feels like a constant party anyway.

Some Republicans were worried that the enormous public display of affection for Paul Ryan was so great after his speech Wednesday night that it might overshadow the actual candidate: what's-his-name.

Mitt Romney. That's it. But there was no chance Ryan was going to overshadow him. Romney has been to this rodeo before. And, besides, he gets to vet every speech.

That's right. Before a word was uttered from the convention podium, it had to be approved by Team Romney. This is tradition. A young, virtually unknown Barack Obama complained bitterly in 2004 when John Kerry's speechwriters removed a line from Obama's speech so Kerry could use it himself.

So it is not surprising that Ryan's speech and Romney's speech matched up and had a unified theme: the theme of disappointment.

"It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new," Ryan said of Obama Wednesday night. "Now all that's left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday's wind."

Romney spoke Thursday night of the thrill some people had four years ago when they voted for hope and change. A thrill, he said, that is gone. "If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama," Romney asked, "shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama? You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."

Probably about 28 million American households had their televisions tuned to Romney's acceptance speech Thursday night. This is not a bad audience for an event where somebody doesn't dance, sing or have a laugh track to help out.

Romney had only one real goal. He had to prove there was a there there. He had to prove that he is what he is and not what he is not.

I'll explain: It is easy to see Romney as a mere fill-in, a construction, a vehicle for dislike for Obama. It is easy to see him as an empty vessel into which dissatisfaction can be poured.

That may be enough to win the presidency in a year in which more than two-thirds of the people think the country is on the wrong track. But it is a risky bet. Voters want to vote for a real person.

"Americans have a choice," Romney said. "A decision. To make that choice, you need to know more about me and about where I will lead our country."

Romney talked about his home and his church. He didn't try to portray his life as a struggle — it has not been — but rather a place where he got love and support. He talked about good times. Good times that have gone.

"But for too many Americans, these good days are harder to come by," he said. "How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America?"

And he posed a question: "To the majority of Americans who now believe that the future will not be better than the past, I can guarantee you this: If Barack Obama is re-elected, you will be right."

He promised to create jobs. "President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet," Romney said. "My promise … is to help you and your family."

He invoked not only the name Ronald Reagan, but Harry Truman, and talked about a new "united America."

"That united America will care for the poor and the sick, will honor and respect the elderly, and will give a helping hand to those in need," he said. "That America is the best within each of us. That America we want for our children."

The crowd stood up and bellowed, of course. That is what crowds at these conventions do. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But the bellowing soon stops. Both sides believe they really have a plan for America and its future. And both sides hope Americans devote a little thought to those plans before casting a vote.

Bellowing is easy. Thinking is hard. But hope springs eternal.

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