At the conventions, an old plumb line


Clicking back and forth between Fox News and CNN, watching the Democratic Convention, was like watching two different conventions. From two different worlds.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was roundly booed by Bernie Sanders’ supporters. But, then, Michelle Obama righted the Democrats’ ship with her speech Monday night – and proof of her effectiveness is the non-existent coverage her speech received on Fox News.

Elizabeth Warren, full of economic populism aimed squarely at billionaire Trump, followed Mrs. Obama and explained how Trump has made millions ripping off everyone from plumbers to construction workers.

Bernie Sanders wrapped up the night with more anti-Wall Street populism and his own ringing endorsement of Hillary.

By midnight the Democrats were all singing out of the same hymnal: Hillary’s a mother, there’s a lot to be said for having a mother’s perspective in the Oval Office, the rich are getting richer while the rest of us are slipping downhill, and Donald Trump’s a wicked, angry billionaire, who’s no role model for children.

Led by Warren and Sanders, Democrats spoke out as the champion of “us.” The collective “us.” And, in their eyes, the machinery for the collective “us” to implement our will is government. The “we” who have the votes will fix the woes we are suffering at the hands of Wall Street pirates through government.

The flaw in this case is government is also one of the most bungling institutions ever created by men. Even with the best of intentions, government often does more harm than good. And, beyond that, a populist crusade for “economic justice” can always, in a heartbeat, turn into a crusade for “economic plunder.”

Republicans, traditionally, have shown little faith in the will of collective and virtually none at all in government. Their mission has been to protect the individual from government.

This division is a very old plumb line. And, when all is said and done, that cleavage may define this election.

Carter Wrenn is a veteran N.C. Republican strategist writing on the 2016 conventions.