As I watched the Democratic National Convention, an eerie familiarity crept over me. Was I watching a re-run of what had happened the week prior? American flags waved and chants of “USA! USA!” washed over the crowd again and again.
The Democratic Party strikes a hawkish tone
Joe Biden declared: “But folks, let me tell you what I literally told every world leader I’ve met with and I’ve met them all. It’s never, never, never been a good bet to bet against America. We have the finest fighting force in the world.”
Barack Obama said: “[Hillary Clinton] has the judgment and the experience and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism. It’s not new to her. Our troops have pounded ISIL without mercy, taking out their leaders, taking back territory. And I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed. She will finish the job.”
While talking about the decision to send U.S. forces to kill Osama Bin Laden, Leon Panetta explained:
“I presented the intelligence to the President and to others weighing out the risks of that operation. And when the President went around the table, to our country’s national security leadership, there were concerns. But Hillary was clear: We have to go after Bin Laden. And our special operations forces, God bless them, did just that. And they sent a clear message to the world – that no one attacks the United States of America and gets away with it.”
This kind of hawkishness, this heavy-handed bravado of macho speech, is normally what the Republican party resorts to for easy applause lines. Rally the base by beating the drums of American strength and military might. Summon fear and declare that the U.S. will triumph over any foe that stands in our way.
The crowd at the Democratic convention lent its support to these themes, raising up USA chants to drown out the “No more war!” shouts that rang out in protest of Leon Panetta’s words. When the chants of “No more war!” grew too loud and persistent to drown out, Panetta pivoted, evoking fear of a Donald Trump partnership with the Red Threat of Russia.
While Hillary Clinton opined about how criticism of her was the only “unifying theme” the Republican party had at their convention, the Democratic party had little to offer beyond criticisms of its own rival. Without boring you with a rehashing of all of Trump’s flaws, suffice it to say that his name came up pretty often. According to a transcript of Hillary Clinton’s own speech, she mentioned Trump nearly twice as often as he mentioned her in his speech, saying his name 21 times to his 11.
On the first day of the Republican National Convention, Patricia Smith gave a moving speech, blaming Hillary Clinton for the death of her son in Benghazi. About a week later, at the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan spoke about the death of his son while serving in the U.S. military before similarly attacking Donald Trump for his rhetoric toward American Muslims, demanding to know, “Have you even read the United States Constitution?” In both cases, grieving parents were used by the candidates to criticize the opposition and conjure fear of the opponent’s candidate.
Republicans flee a sinking ship
Neocons and Warhawks seem to understand this shift in the Democratic party under the leadership of Hillary Clinton. From Max Boot to Robert Kagan to Eliot Cohen to Noemie Emery, many of these figures have declared that they would prefer a Clinton presidency to Trump. Plenty of prominent Republican figures have praised Clinton as Secretary of State. These Republicans include Dick Cheney, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Condoleezza Rice. Although, perhaps none of this is surprising given Hillary Clinton’s close relationship to Henry Kissinger.
Republican advisers and congressman are also jumping ship to join Clinton. Earlier this week, Sally Bradshaw (senior adviser to Jeb Bush during his campaign this year) declared she had become an independent and is now strongly considering voting for Hillary Clinton this election. She is just the latest in a string of former Bush presidency alumni to endorse Clinton over Trump.
On August 2, 2016, Richard Hanna (a House Representative from New York) openly declared that he will vote for Clinton in November. This makes him the first Republican congressman to publicly say he would vote for Clinton, but with many other Republicans refusing to endorse Trump, it would not be surprising to see more join Hanna’s side.
Tim Kaine, centrist moderate, or Republican in Democratic clothing?
But if hawkishness and fear-mongering weren’t Republican enough, if ship-jumping Republicans aren’t a big enough indicator, let me pause to reflect a moment on the choice of Tim Kaine as Vice President for the Democratic party.
Coming from the state of Virginia, Kaine has a checkered past of supporting policies that fall on both sides of the aisle. He has supported the “fast track” option for the TPP and has recently urged less regulation on banks (while not the major banks that people tend to think about, these banks do largely donate to Republican tickets). He did not oppose cuts to Social Security as part of a deficit deal in 2013, stating “we’ve got to put all options on the table.” Finally, he has a less than stellar record on abortion, supporting abstinence-only sex education, a partial birth abortion ban, and, just last week, confirming that he still supports the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of abortions.
Perhaps the Democratic party intends to make up for the lost votes of #Demexit by picking up centrist Republican votes instead. After all, as Tim Kaine said in his speech at the convention last week: “And I tell you, if any of you are looking for that party of Lincoln, we have got a home for you right here in the Democratic Party.”