This year, for the first time, I watched most of the speeches from both political conventions. I was able to do this primarily because of You Tube, and I cannot say I fully enjoyed the experience. Of course I liked the Democrats speeches better, particularly Obama's and Bill Clinton's ... man, Clinton is a hell of a speech maker. I felt like those speeches, particularly Obama's, had a lot of rhetoric (and the stagecraft for Obamas worked well, but was a bit over the top) but also a good amount of substance. The didn't talk about policy in excruciating detail, I mean these were essentially political entertainment, but they did talk about it and if you choose to believe what Obama was saying, you got a good idea of what his presidency will be like.
The Republican speeches did not do that for me. I was surprised that I thought some of the speeches were good, particularly Fred Thompson's discussion of McCains life, which I thought was well-articulated and moving. I was disappointed with Palin's speech, not because she is not a good speaker, because she has a great presence, but because she brazenly perpetuated a lot of the falsehoods that have been shown in her records over the last week, and because she was so relentlessly partisan. I thought McCain's speech wasn't great, but he did a reasonable job in the presentation (and expectations had been greatly lowered during the week) and it did look a lot better compared to the vicious, partisan rhetoric from earlier in the week ... however, Republicans felt the Democrats were also mostly attacking and partisan in their speeches, and I think they would be right, so on balance, the attacking was pretty even from both sides.
Still, I felt the attacks from the campaigns were different, that the Democratic attacks were very policy based "John McCain's tax cuts do not help the middle class", while the Republican attacks were personal and juvenile "A mayor is like a community organizer with actual responsibilities (this jibe was particularly crude and arrogant, and pissed a lot of people off)". And most importantly, the Republicans were very, very short on substance, but Joe Biden says it here a lot better than I could ...
Overall, while both conventions were a ton of rhetoric and stagecraft, and both were extremely disappointing in terms of public access and protests, although, as one might expect, the Democratic convention came off as less military. the Democratic convention at least had some substance and you left not only "uplifted" by the spectacle, but, if you were listening, having a good idea of what kind of government you would be voting for with the Democratic ticket. With the Republicans, all we know is what they want you to vote against, and that's not a platform, it's just disrespect for all of our intelligence. Our country is fucked up, we need to fix it and handing us a line about what the other guy won't do tells us nothing and assumes that we are not smart enough to evaluate things for ourselves.
That's the real change Barack is providing, he is respecting the voters and trying to raise the level of political discourse, while McCain is simply leaving it where it always is, because it has worked in the past. Right now, the campaign process, how they are running, is the only measure of action we can judge them by, because it is the one thing they have both done that is directly related to the presidency. So if you had a choice between someone who tells you he is for change and is acting his convictions, or someone who (now) talks about change but acts contrary to that message throughout the campaign, who would you vote for?