For political journalists, there’s nothing crueler than two national political conventions, two weeks in a row: Endless hours of note-taking; long, boring speeches by countless politicians; cheap hotels, lousy food and not enough sleep. You take one day of travel to another convention city, then turn around and do it all over again.Every reporter complains about it, but too bad. Because the worst things for reporters are the best things for voters a chance to see both major political parties up close, back to back, in order to weigh the differences between them. And there could be no greater contrast between two parties, two conventions, or two candidates than what we saw in Cleveland and Philadelphia.The quick version is: One convention was built on fear, the other on hope. One convention ended up offering the most qualified person ever to run for president, while the other offered the least. As for other real differences between them, let me count the ways.Tone. From beginning to end, the Republican convention was a public display of doom and gloom. If you believe Donald Trump, America’s never been in worse shape: economically bankrupt at home, weak and disrespected around the globe and outsmarted and outgunned by ISIS-inspired terrorists. It’s a pessimistic message designed to justify Trump’s call to “Make American Great Again.” By contrast, the picture of America painted by Democrats in Philadelphia, while realistic, was also positive, upbeat and sunny. As asserted by speaker after speaker: Yes, we have significant challenges, but, based on the facts, not mere assertions, we’re stronger than ever, both militarily and economically, both home and abroad. As first lady Michelle Obama told delegates: “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we have to make it great again, because this right now is the greatest nation on earth.”Messengers. Again, what a contrast. Republicans were obviously hurting for speakers to deliver the message. If Trump didn’t have so many kids to fill in, there would have been hours of radio silence. Many leading Republicans John McCain, Jeb Bush, President George W. Bush who would have been invited to address the convention didn’t even show up. Several speakers avoided mentioning Donald Trump’s name, and Ted Cruz refused to endorse him.Democrats, on the other hand, had an embarrassment of riches: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine joined by President Obama, the first lady, Vice President Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Leader Harry Reid, and House and Senate Democrats. Plus a surprise appearance by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave one of the convention’s most effective speeches and shredded Donald Trump with one memorable line: “I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one.”Issues. A convention is a great opportunity, which Republicans in Cleveland totally wasted. There was a lot of talk about “Crooked Hillary” and why she should never be allowed to become president, but little talk about what agenda Republicans would pursue if they ever won the White House. Maybe that’s because, in Joe Biden’s words, Donald Trump “doesn’t have a clue.”Democrats loaded their agenda with speakers on national security, climate change, clean water, gun safety, women’s rights, gay rights, Black Lives Matter and a host of other issues, each with a specific plan for going forward.Diversity. Big difference. Philadelphia was broadcast in color; Cleveland, in black and white. Mostly white. According to the website Fusion, only 18 out of 2,472 delegates to the GOP convention were African-American, while 1,182 African-Americans were among 4,766 delegates gathered in Philly, in addition to 292 Asian-Americans, 747 Latinos, 147 Native Americans, 2,887 women and 633 LGBTQ Americans.Unity. Perhaps the biggest difference of all. Thanks in great part to Bernie Sanders, Democrats leave Philadelphia united solidly and happily behind Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Republicans are still trying to decide whether or not they like Donald Trump. Or trust him.It boils down to this: Anybody who watched both gatherings must conclude: One party knows how to put on a convention, the other party does not.Bill Press is host of a nationally syndicated radio show, CNN political analyst and author.
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