Conventions compared. The 2012 political conventions are now in the books, and the substantive differences between the two major parties have rarely been starker. On the definition of the family, on abortion and life, on the role of government in our lives, on education, the differences are plain. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan calls the Democratic position "soft extremism," and said, "The Democrats convened in Charlotte seemed more extreme on the point, more accepting of the idea of government as the center of national life, than ever." Focus on the Family's CitizenLink has a helpful summary of the differences in the party platforms. A close look at this list makes one thing clear: You can't say, as you often could in the past when the parties engaged in a rush to the middle, "They're all the same." This year, they're not.
Protests silenced. It was interesting to me that the radical protesters from the Occupy movement and other fringe groups more or less failed to materialize in Charlotte. I mentioned on Wednesday that the largest protest, the day before the convention started, attracted only about 800 people. The police who were called in to keep order significantly outnumbered the protesters. I think there are two reasons why the protest fizzled. For one, I think this movement is more a media creation than a true groundswell. Secondly, let's face it: They won. Just about everything the radical left could ever want is already a part of the Democratic platform.
Jobs improving? The U.S. economy added 96,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits for the first time fell by 12,000 last week, to 365,000. These are all baby steps in the right direction, but they are all also well below expectations, and are signs that the economy is recovering slowly. At this rate it will be years before we will back to something approaching historical normal levels of economic growth and employment. People who follow such matters now have two questions: Will the Fed act quickly and significantly to stimulate the economy? Will these numbers affect President Obama's reelection chances? Hard to say, but lots of smart people think the answer to both questions is "no." The logic is that the Fed won't act until after the election for fear of being perceived as a political tool, and that Obama's performance in the economy is already baked in to the polls and into people's minds, so these numbers - which he will be able to spin as modest improvements - won't hurt him.
Take that. Even prayers are parsed at political conventions. Consider the benediction of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, who closed the Democratic National Convention. According to LifeNews.com, he "gave the kind of benediction that the Obama reelection campaign probably feared he would give." At the end of a radically pro-abort convention, Dolan prayed, "Grant us the courage to defend life … waiting to be born, welcomed and protected." He also took aim at the Obama administration's contraceptive mandate, which is not about contraceptives at all, but about religious liberty. Dolan said, "Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty, the first, most cherished freedom."