(I wrote this last night at The Stranger's party for today's issue, which should be hitting the streets any minute now.)
There’s a lot of conventional wisdom that gets tossed around by people like me in situations like this—writing on a tight deadline for the early morning edition of a newspaper in a crowded room full of people screaming for a winning political candidate. And as cliché-riddled as it is, a lot of that conventional wisdom is true. It usually does come down to the ground game. When more people vote, Democrats do win. But my favorite bit of conventional wisdom is this: It’s almost impossible to win an election when your argument is that you’re not the other guy. People don’t vote against a candidate. They vote for a candidate.
That cliché seems especially relevant to me tonight for two reasons. For one thing, it’s one of the many reasons why Mitt Romney lost. When I attended the Republican National Convention back in August, it wasn’t so much a pro-Romney event as an anti-Obama event. The crowd rippled with hatred and disdain for President Obama, for Michelle Obama, for liberals. The compliments for Willard Romney were as thin and unctuous as the film that the Tampa humidity left on everyone’s skin: He’s a family man, a very successful businessman. He was governor of a liberal state. He did something with the Olympics that was positive, or something. All of the passion, all of the excitement, pitched and heaved into hatred.
Attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte a week later was like taking off a smudged pair of glasses: This was a convention about a candidate, a cause, and a community. People smiled, talked about hopes and memories. Romney’s name barely ever came up. I knew then, in some part of my brain immune to superstition, that everything would be all right on election night.