There are two ways to approach a political campaign: you can run against someone, or you can stand for something. In the last five days, Americans have gotten a good look at both -- the Democrats, whose main argument for Joe Biden is "he's not Trump," and the Republicans, who are focusing on the clashing policies, not personalities. In a wild 2020, where nothing is predictable, at least one thing is: This is the year of political contrasts -- and the parties' conventions are no exception.
There are, as strategists in Charlotte would agree, advantages to going second. The RNC, who watched and learned from the DNC's mistakes, struck a decidedly different tone Monday night. This would be a time, they decided, not to criticize America but celebrate it. Everyday people, from nurses to dads, took turns sharing heartfelt stories about the country that gave them opportunities, a chance to succeed, a vision for a better life. Others, like Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) painted a picture of a nation that's fundamentally good, that rises above, that will find a way to be better. "We live in a world that only wants you to believe in the bad news," he said. But "the truth is," he insisted, "our nation's arc always bends toward fairness. We are not fully where we want to be, but I thank God Almighty we are not where we used to be."
But Monday's event wasn't all pom poms and pipe dreams either. There were real problems to address, real crises, real threats to the democracy we cherish. Cuban-born American Máximo Álvarez warned of the dark days ahead if the socialist forces behind the Democratic ticket prevail. "When I watch the news in Seattle and Chicago and Portland, when I see history being rewritten, when I hear the promises -- I hear echoes of a former life I never wanted to hear again," said the man who came to America as a child and refugee. "I see shadows I thought I had outrun," Álvarez continued. "I heard the promises of Fidel Castro. And I can never forget all those who grew up around me, who looked like me, who suffered and starved and died because they believed those empty promises. They swallowed the communist poison pill... I'm here to tell you: we cannot let them take over our country."
Of course, viewers tuning in to the Democratic National Convention never heard those fanatical voices -- the cries to defund the police, punish our faith, pack the courts, and take away our guns and freedom. Why? Because it's unpopular. And, Kyle Smith argues, the party knows it. "If the opening night of the DNC is any indication, Mr. Biden's plan is to stick his agenda under the sofa cushion when talking to the general public and limit himself to the following message: I'm nice, and I'm not Mr. Trump. Don't concern yourselves, he is telling us, with what I... have promised the extremists we will do once we're in power."
Read the platform for yourself -- the "socialist manifesto," some have called it, that will turn America into the world's next Venezuela. There's a reason the GOP spent more time on policy in one hour than every day of the DNC Convention combined. If voters actually understood what the new Democratic Party represents, it would profoundly change the minds of any American who thought they were simply supporting Obama's likeable number two. The New York Times's platform analysis -- "It doesn't make everyone happy" -- is putting it mildly. It's a platform, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and I discussed on "Washington Watch," that the American people would reject.
"If you look at what the president said he would do and what the president has done, you can see that what he said about faith based groups, what he said about life, what he said about regulatory behavior, what he said about getting the economy going -- [they're] all things that were part of his commitment to the American people. And I think it's also pretty clear from watching the Democratic convention last week that they want it to be about personalities and not about the issues. And I think the president today speaking to the delegates at the Republican nominating meeting at the convention that made it very clear that he intends for people to be sure that they know what's on the ballot. And it's not just personalities. It's the future of the country."
Deep down, Americans know this. They realize that what's at stake in November isn't a congenial Twitter feed -- it's a governing philosophy that will either move our country forward, as evidenced by the last four years, or hold us back. A vision that will seize our liberties and stymie our faith, or embrace freedom and opportunity as one nation under God. The choice -- and the contrast -- could not be clearer.
For more information on how much your vote matters, check out our Trump Accomplishments document and see the pages of pro-family progress that hangs in the balance. Also, don't miss my analysis on the election and party conventions from this morning's "Washington Journal" interview on C-SPAN.