If the Democratic and Republican conventions produced thousands, likely tens of thousands of media and social media images, we have culled them down to three pair. In this first set, we have chronicled a truly astonishing phenomenon. Prioritizing “lock her up” over “USA” (while the Democrats reminded the audience over and over who killed bin Laden), the Republican’s have personified Hillary Clinton, more than those Mexicans and Muslims, as America’s ultimate threat. In moving to the dark side, the gathering in Cleveland confused hate with strength and fear and vindictiveness with law-and-order. What the top photo demonstrates in a striking fashion is how much Donald Trump’s paranoia has caused the GOP and the Republican Convention to cede its franchise as the party of patriotism, faith, American exceptionalism and sunny optimism.
Clinton’s weaknesses as a candidate and a politician are well known. She is wonky more than she’s warm. She is factual, not stirring. Outside of her core supporters,people find it difficult to get a personal or emotional sense of her, and given a litany of reasons, lots of people just don’t trust her. With all that in the mix, the Hillary-Obama hug was a momentary watershed.
It doesn’t matter if the fuel came from Obama’s poetic farewell, his passing of the baton, his own wonky side and his sense of unfinished business as much as it emanated from his relationship with Hillary, the image does three things. It softens her. In it’s intimacy, it shifts emphasis back to her role as a mother and a grandmother. But even more so, it projects Hillary as a/our companion and partner. Above all, in spite of the open fracture between the center and the left, the moment made the themes of “love trumps hate” and “stronger together” more credible.
Trump’s air kiss for his V.P., on the other hand, someone he essentially just met, was an interesting tell. If you listen only for tone, you encounter someone who, beyond bluster, bombast or mockery, lacks the most basic emotional register. Try watching him with the sound off. He is fundamentally unable to relate kindly, thoughtfully or attentively (outside his family, anyway) to anybody.
From the differences to the parallels. This set captures the artifice underlying both conventions. The photo above depicts the open clash between the left wing/Bernie supporters and the rest of the party while the floor fight photo below captures the last, anemic gasp of the #StopTrump effort.
If the GOP convention portrayed more uniformity, and that’s including the Trump-Cruz havoc, it’s because the so-called “blue collar billionaire” has cleverly posed himself as anti-Washington, anti-establishment and the populist embodiment of the disenfranchised. With Bernie channeling the same deep frustration without overthrowing the party establishment, the Democratic convention — both inside the building and outside — was riddled with friction.
(photo 1: Jim Young/Reuters. caption: Delegates on the floor of the 2016 Democratic Convention hold up USA signs. Photo 2: EPA. caption: A Michigan delegate wears a Hillary Clinton mask during the Republican National Convention. Photo 3: Carolyn Kaster / AP. caption: President Obama hugs Hillary Clinton after addressing the delegates at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Photo 4: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images. caption: Donald Trump joins Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on stage at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday July 20, 2016. Photo 5: Nancy Lane. caption: It was a battle of the signs on the second night of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Photo 6: KTLA5 via CNN. caption: Protest From Never-Trump Faction Breaks Out on Republican Convention Floor.