On reflection, I don’t have a lot to add to what I said last night. Rod Paige and Michael Steele were very good, especially Steele, but the reality is that no one gets very fired up over education, and I don’t think many votes turn on it.
Why that is true is an interesting question. There is nothing that parents care more about than their children’s futures, and education is a big part of that equation. Yet “education,” as a political issue, leaves most people lukewarm. I think the reason is that most people believe that “education,” as a public issue, has very little to do with what really happens in the classroom and in their children’s lives. Most people believe–correctly–that education takes place more in the home than in schools, and that individual students and teachers, their work habits and individual efforts, are far more important than anything that happens at a broad, political or theoretical level.
This skepticism has generally been healthy, and has served to protect students and their parents from a lot of bad educational theories over the years. But now, the shoe is on the other foot, and if conservatives are to get anywhere with school choice and other such issues, what they have to overcome, even more than the teachers’ unions, is the largely unconscious belief on the part of most voters that political discussion about “education” has little to do with their children’s lives or future prospects.
Arnold was great, of course. Working in the “economic girlie men” in the way that he did was inspired. Fitting Arnold into the “compassion” night was perfect, since his uplifting, positive immigrant history fit the theme, but Arnold’s style and presence kept the night from being overly feminized. I saw someone saying earlier this morning that he, like most people, hadn’t seen Arnold speak before, except in newsclips, and it was a revelation to see how good he is. That comment surprised me a little, but if it’s true that a great many people haven’t really been exposed to Arnold as a politician, then the boost from his speech could be considerable.
After watching my video footage of the twins, I think my initial evaluation was a bit hard on them. But only a little. The problem wasn’t so much their performance as their script, which basically confirmed their image as immature airheads. Why this would be seen as a good thing is anyone’s guess. It is an iron law of politics that it is pointless and counterproductive for a Republican to try to be “hip.” To the extent that some strategist thought the twins could reflect some sort of hipness on to the President, he was wrong.
The only mitigating evidence I’ve seen was that the young man sitting on my immediate left last night clearly didn’t share my reaction to Jenna and Barbara. On the contrary. So maybe there is an audience for this kind of thing somewhere.
Laura Bush was fine, but I wish she had preceded Arnold instead of following him. Inevitably, both her style and her subject matter felt like a letdown. But she is very popular, and there is nothing to be lost by putting her in front of the public.
My video from last night is done, and can be viewed here. It’s much shorter than yesterday’s and will be a much quicker download. Still, it will play better if you give it a minute to load.
I was on the floor for part of the evening, sitting with the Minnesota delegation. I did a little filming, just to convey a feel of what the floor is like. You can see, for example, what careful attention the delegates pay to the speeches. I got a quick shot of the elder Bushes, and a little footage of Norm and Laurie Coleman, looking very fetching in a red dress. The rest of the video consists of highlights from the speeches. Stay tuned, though, for the very last clip, which is an excerpt from a late-night blogger interview with a lefty who could be the next Jim Boyd. But only if he doesn’t go to jail for disorderly conduct!
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
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