Agreeing to disagree: OETA panelists parse Democratic party’s messaging

Former President Bill Clinton gave a great speech.

When a quartet of panelists, including CapitolBeatOK editor Patrick B. McGuigan, parsed the “messaging” and themes at this month’s Democratic National Convention, Clinton’s talk – if not Clinton the man — was the thing on which there was firm agreement. 

In the episode of “Oklahoma Forum” after the gathering to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term, OETA anchor Dick Pryor led a discussion that included Holly Wall of This Land Press, former Democratic state chairman Ben Odom, political analyst Larry Stein and McGuigan. 

Discussion kicked off with Democratic state Chairman Wallace Collins, who said the convention atmosphere was “electrifying,” and that former President Clinton’s address was “absolutely fantastic.” Collins said there was both diversity and unity at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Odom, Collins’ predecessor at the state party, thought Democratic speakers communicated well, making the case for four more years for Obama. He commented that both political parties are “driving a base vote campaign,” designed primarily to move their voters to the polls. 

Odom also observed that Obama’s speech was designed to make this election about the next four years, not the last four. He reflected the messaging of Democrats and Republicans, in their national gatherings, seemed to moving past one another. He contended the election will turn on upcoming debates between Obama and the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. Odom asserted the platform debates over God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel provoked “false outrage” from Republicans.

Stein agreed Clinton’s speech was effective, but assailed the former president as a “perjurer and philanderer.” He also said the convention seemed short on specifics except for emphases on gay marriage and abortion. He believes “OMG” means “Obama Must Go.” Stein said Americans believe Obama has taken a car that was on the side of the road and driven it off a cliff. 

Holly Wall found the tone of the convention was optimistic and passionate, and the event reinvigorated excitement for the national ticket. Mildly critical of Obama’s speech, she said he reached out to his base, but not swing voters or independents. “He was playing it safe” in the speech, she argued.

Clinton, on the other hand, “gave the best speech of the convention,” Wall believed. 

McGuigan said it was hard to reconcile Clinton’s encouragement of bipartisan cooperation with Obama’s actual record in his first term. He believes the tone of the convention was negative, yet well-constructed and effective at reaching party faithful. He described the “messaging” as divisive, and observed Obama is not governing as a unifier, in contrast to Clinton’s pattern after Republicans gained control of the U.S. House in 1994.

He credited the president for putting references to God back into the platform. McGuigan contended that Obama’s campaign will be challenged in sustaining a Clinton-style message through November. He also found “intriguing” the president’s use of the “we” pronoun, and less use of the word, “I” in describing his agenda. He agreed with Odom’s comments that the Romney-Obama debates will be critical in deciding the election. 

McGuigan will again be part of The Oklahoma Network’s coverage on general election night, Tuesday, November 6.