As I sat down in front of the television and prepared to watch the start of the Democratic National Convention with my family, I was worried. I never imagined that this election would evolve into such a disconcerting excuse for a race. Recent mishaps like the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and conflict within the Democratic party meant that I was not a casual viewer. I needed to hear what party members had to say about our aspirations for the immediate and the distant future. And I needed a bit of reassurance from the only candidates and the only party in this election that I feel represent American values.
I learned that Clinton and Kaine are two of the most qualified and prepared candidates America has ever seen run for presidential office, and that the Democratic Party’s values have evolved and improved. Not only is the party platform more progressive than ever, with new and increased strategies to combat income inequality, but the patriotism and support of U.S. military efforts seen throughout the week were unprecedented. The only negative thing that stuck with me is that our two candidates are not particularly exciting — but then again, that’s not the promise they’re campaigning on.
I remember originally being underwhelmed by Clinton’s choice of Tim Kaine as her running mate, admittedly because he is a white male. But after learning more about him and hearing him speak at the convention, I am convinced that he is a perfect candidate for the Office of Vice President (even if late night television host John Oliver’s interpretation of Kaine’s perfection was to label him the political equivalent of the photo that comes pre-set in picture frames). We must look past Kaine’s gender and race and focus on his amazing track record fighting for social justice. As a civil attorney, he defended those who faced housing discrimination, and in the Senate he fought for women’s reproductive rights and for increasing employment among veterans.
Some commentators have remarked that Tim Kaine was the least “polished” of the more important speakers at the DNC. But I got the impression that he is just more down-to-earth and comfortable being himself in front of such a large audience. What others saw as overly jovial and folksy for the setting (remember his repetitive impression of Trump: “believe me”?), struck me as genuine speech from a man with more experience addressing local constituents at town hall meetings than addressing the nation using impressive rhetoric.
And people in the news industry said something similar about Clinton’s speech, describing it as “boring.” But I want to point out that Clinton has never advertised herself as being particularly exciting. What her speech did was give many important and specific examples of what she would do as President, like pushing legislation to invest more money in new job creation. Why is it boring when a woman talks about what needs to get done, but entertaining when a man insults a Muslim mother? I know that commentators’ assessment of “boring” did not come as a direct comparison of Clinton to Trump, but at this point in the election every judgment should be a direct comparison of the two candidates.
That’s why I got upset when NPR’s Rachel Martin and the Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter described some of Clinton’s policy examples as “wonky” and said they were likely going over people’s heads. There was absolutely nothing complicated about Clinton saying that she believed in science, for example. Meanwhile, the problem is that Donald Trump is immensely complicated. Trump has changed American politics so drastically and so rapidly, that much of the electorate no longer seems to be able to recognize the difference between fact and emotion.
John Oliver said that candidates can create feelings in people, but some Republican lawmakers are now saying that feelings are as valid as facts, so by the transitive property, Oliver says, candidates claim to create facts and thus an alternative reality. This is what allows Trump’s comments about Mexicans being rapists to resonate with certain parts of the electorate. Meanwhile, no one seems to be hearing the ideas coming from the Clinton campaign because it no longer feels as if traditional presidential campaigning has a place in this election. Is it because people have reached a new level of apathy? Is it because the real danger in Trump’s troubling rhetoric lies in its effectiveness? As of yet, no one knows. But we do know that we’ve never seen an election like this in modern U.S. history.
Somehow we’ve arrived at a point where our two candidates use such different political methods that it is impossible to judge Clinton and Trump with the same standards. Trump’s method is to manufacture fact from feeling: criminals are crossing the border and stealing our jobs, etc. Clinton’s method is creating feeling from fact: we’re the only country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that does not mandate paid maternity leave, etc.
In between now and election day, I’ll be extremely interested to see how the two realities of fact and fiction will collide, especially at the upcoming presidential debates.
Claire Thornton is a sophomore from San Antonio, Texas. She can be reached at email@example.com.