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••• The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check USA + READERS RESPONSES

Revenge of the Politicians
• James Campion
Democratic National Convention 2016
The System Punches Back “Old School” In Philadelphia


In 1988, with his party facing long odds in keeping the White House for a dozen years, outgoing President Ronald Reagan told his party’s convention that there was no need for change. “We are the change,” he boldly stated. The Gipper said there was no need to stop the machine, it was doing just fine. This is the theme for current outgoing President Barack Obama, who has embodied the unflinching spirit of a man who never questioned the motives of his government or America as the shining promise to humanity. George H. W. Bush followed the eight years of a deified right wing administration, thus beginning a Bush dynasty that would seek the presidency through four elections in eight of the next twelve years, as now Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes the legacy of a left wing pillar, perhaps putting a capper on a Clinton political dynasty that would have a stake in four of the last six presidential elections.

This is the third-term of Barack Obama on trial; just as Bush would be Reagan’s, and like the Great Communicator, the Grand Orator is betting on above-water approval ratings, a stable economy and a sense among his faithful that the transformative eight years of his presidency is embraced by not only Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but a majority of the American electorate. By being the first sitting president to show up at his party’s convention since Reagan (both the toxicity of late-second-term Clinton and Bush were told to stay away), Obama made it clear that although ushering in a business man with zero political experience is as change as change could be, “We are the change.”

This is all you need know about what went down for four days in late July in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention. The president’s point was driven home by a classic “Morning in America” speech and a phalanx of professional politicians, all of them winners; William Jefferson Clinton, Joe Biden, even Jimmy Carter via video hook-up; nary a John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale or Al Gore to be found mucking up the works. Winners of elections and debates; professionals, lifers making the case that a wild-card TV star becoming president is not only crazy, but dangerous, irresponsible and downright unpatriotic. They sold stability, status quo, strength and experience.
What the hell happened?
I grew up in the 1970s and lived through the 1980s into the ‘90s and then began writing regularly about politics then and into the era of 9/11, wherein Republicans embodied all of those things, while Democrats came with the outsider, long-shot that was likely to be pasted by someone waving flags, rolling out military personnel and entrenched establishment types. Now suddenly it’s the Democrats who are pitching more of the same-ol’ and appealing to our pragmatic core.

For four days, the Democrats filled the stage with preachers and gospel choirs evoking God wherever possible, pulled in military leaders and disgruntled moderate Republicans frightened by the prospect of a loose-cannon with his finger on the button, and selling this “Rise Up” American “exceptionalism” that was once owned by a Republican Party that has decided to blow it up and gather all of its chips into a singular cult-of-personality candidate. In other words, Trump’s convention was about Trump (and a whole lot of Hillary bashing), while Clinton’s was some kind of Kumbaya collective of flag-wrapping, goose-bump inducing tribute to all-things positive and sunny (with a whole lot of Trump bashing).

Poor Bernie Sanders, 74 year-old, socialist Vermont senator and recent presidential candidate, bested by the system that put on this show in his presence. He ranted for months about a revolution in front of millions of rabid, almost religious followers, many of them young and new to this whole shebang. They believed him and they were not buying any of his newly minted “solidarity/unity” jag. The first day of the convention he found himself angrily confronted by a humiliated California delegation of supporters who booed him like A-Rod at Fenway.
Then, later that day – the opening of the Hillary Show – nearly 1,900 of his delegates brought a bellowing voice of anti-establishment fervor that tried to raise its ugly head in Cleveland the week before but was crushed under the steel boot of the Trump Campaign. One delegate from Iowa told a reporter on MSNBC, “Bernie has been making us drink Mountain Dew for months, and now he wants us to go to bed.”

Throughout the next couple of days, entertained by Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz, a host of Broadway stars and Katy Perry they roused chants of “No TPP!” and “No more wars!” and used every mention of or any wave from Sanders to erupt in cheers.

None of that mattered. Sanders put it to bed by evoking the name Trump. This was the medicine to his thwarted revolution, which had been ignored by party chairman, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, who was booted before her own convention when the Russians or WikiLeaks or a combination of the Ring Wing Conspiracy and the Blue Meanies hacked into and leaked emails proving she had and used her bias for Madam Shoo-In throughout a process Sanders kept calling rigged right up until he gave this “unify” speech.

It wasn’t until First Lady Michelle Obama gave the speech of the convention that first night, filled with a sober, sensitive and endearing rhetoric, did the Sandersnistas quell, but only proportionally. They were still out there even when Madam Shoo-in accepted the nomination of her party the final day; waving “No-TPP” signs and shouting “Fix!” and “Rigged!” when given the opportunity.

And so Clinton’s acceptance speech, an historic moment in American politics (nearly a century after women received the right to vote, a woman finally represents a major political party), became a rallying cry to forget much of what irks the electorate (seven out of ten Americans think the country is on the wrong track, compared to four out of ten in 1988) and a defense of Obama’s America as the “real” America.

Ronald Reagan proved that myths can be powerful. His party embraced myths for decades, and now, it seems, due in part to the incredible negatives heaped upon both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that the battle for twenty-first century patriotism is on.



It is hard to believe that Hillary Clinton is still fending off a 74 year-old socialist senator from one of the smallest states in the union. (WHY BERNIE SANDERS MATTERS – Issue: 6/1/16) This is why Bernie Sanders matters – he’s still here! And I fear he is not going anywhere before, during or after the convention in July. This thing he has created is beyond his control now. It’s like Trump in so many ways; most of it is his persona, his anti-establishment ring, but a greater portion is the fed-up nature of the majority of the electorate who believes strongly that things are shit. Something like seven or eight out of ten American now consider the government a stagnant wasteland of corruption and misguided ridiculousness.
Sanders matters because there is a sincerity to him that no one has been able to match; absolutely not Trump, who does appear like a con-man when compared to Sanders. I am not a progressive and despite voting for Obama in 2008, I got off the bandwagon shortly afterwards. But Sanders is a true candidate that believes his rhetoric and makes Hillary and Trump look like cold, calculating opportunists.
Politics aside, with the two leading candidates being as untrustworthy as any we have ever polled, Bernie Sanders is the real deal. This is what America is truly hungry for and why the idealistic nature of young and new voters attracted to the cause are drawn to him. It is a shame he will be cast aside as an historical footnote, but historical nonetheless!

Amanda Petrel

I don't know man. The OIG report is smelling a little smoky, this might pierce the Clinton Teflon armor. If that report goes all the way, this election will be a real kerfuffle.
Either way, I'm inspired to read the whole 83-page deal, without the media lens.

Doc Slater

I’ll tell you why this is a great column, and continues to be week after friggin’ week, because it never fails to see the grander point to many of the stories of our day. You are so spot-on here it is frightening. Sanders absolutely matters, because he is our hero, speaking truth to power and not through hate or fear but an uplifting message of the collective; it is inspiring and revolutionary. It brings to mind what politics could be if put into the right hands. I applaud Bernie Sanders fight and for your articulating its purpose and meaning.

Jerry Cohen

Let me just say that Bernie Sanders is completely insane and has zero chance of ever heading a major political party. I think Donald Trump’s chances are far better in not only his personality but his anti-establishment stance. Sanders had been in politics and government for decades. What the hell is he talking about?? He’s the problem NOT the solution! Holy crap. Only Trump can truly make a difference. Love him or hate him at least we have to agree on that!

Peter LL222

Thank you for pointing out that the two big frauds of this election season, Bernie Sanders AND Donald Trump throw around the word “rigged” as if it is actually happening and not their handy dandy excuse for things not going their way. Hillary Clinton, for all of her faults and all of her shortcomings as a candidate and everything that pisses off the electorate about her entrenched establishment credentials, beat Bernie fair and square, and pretty decisively for that matter. And if there is anything “rigged” it is the caucus system, where ironically for Bernie cleaned up and never once pointed out is vague and shadowy and undemocratic. And Trump cries like a baby every time things don’t go his way, whether the debates, media coverage, people actually quoting him verbatim and then he contradicts this with additional half-assed bullshit reasoning.
Hopefully this country will get over its delusion on who is qualified for the presidency and choose the correct candidate and not be snowed by these childish antics.


Mr. Campion,

It was an honor to read this beautifully worded piece on the passing of Muhammad Ali. (MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016 – Issue: 6/15/16) I would say Ali more than anyone transcended sport and used his personal story, his faith, his beliefs, and his incredible talent for communication for good, or at least what he felt was just. This is not only rare in athletes or young men in general, because they tend to be self-centered and egotistical (which of course Ali was too) and not care a lick about the world around them, but it has never, in my humble opinion, been repeated.
I have read many tributes to the Greatest and I like yours right up there.

Jason Rendell

Thanx for pointing out Ali’s faults as well as his positives. There was never anything boring about him, whether you rooted for him or not. He was bigger than sport and in many ways embodied the spirit of America better than any politician or statesman. He was an original. He will be missed.


Very nice, James. You’re like a fine wine, getting better with age.

Bo Blaze

Great tribute. Great column. Worthy of the Greatest.
Punk stuff: He became the first boxer to lose and then win the world HEAVYWEIGHT title three times. The real Sugar Ray (Robinson) won and lost the middleweight title four or five times, I think but at least three. And there were probably others (Carmen Basilio, Joey Giardello maybe) who won a world title three times before Ali came along--but that's nothing.
This is very, very well written and beautifully balanced--and thank you a hundred times over for calling him out on what he did to Joe Frazier, a great champion and a great and courageous man in his own right.

Vincent Czyz

© James Campion 8.5.16

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James Campion is the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, "Midnight For Cinderella" and “Y”. and his new book, “Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon”.

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