Demos Jeer "Divisive" Speech
Demos Jeer "Divisive" Bush Speech
September 8, 2004 2:51 PM
Boos and hisses rang out from the 50 men and women gathered at the Democratic Party headquarters in San Francisco Thursday night as they watched George W. Bush accept the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York City.
Young, old and of every skin tone, the supporters of Sen. John Kerry wore yellow stickers that read “Every Vote Counts” and lit candles as a sign of unity with other Democrats watching the same speech across the country. California State Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly joined the vigil dubbed “1,000 Points of Light” by the Democratic National Committee.
The lively group huddled around three televisions in the modest campaign office on Market Street. They shouted protests and insults while waving Kerry-Edwards campaign signs. They scoffed when Bush said he has provided a safer America and a stronger economy. Many simply shook their heads in dismay. It was all lies or at least disingenuous, they said.
One-third of the group at the Democratic headquarters was between the ages of 18-35, including Jenn Schultz. She said Bush’s remarks were full of “false anecdotes.”
“Basically everything he’s put forward he hasn’t done, I don’t believe he will do or he didn’t say how he would do it,” Schultz said.
Some of those ideas included expanded Pell Grants for low and middle income families and making sure Americans earn a college education before they enter the workforce.
“It wasn’t a dramatic, bold speech,” said SF State political science assistant professor Corey Cook. “But rather one that said I can’t believe you’re going to elect this other guy so let me tear him down a bit and assert that things are getting better.”
Cook said the speech attacked Kerry and even though it was billed as a substantive speech, it was remarkably short on details.
“It was pretty much, I’m the commander-in-chief,” Cook said. “I know what’s right in the world and this guy doesn’t have the competance to be commander-in-chief.”
Before Bush’s speech began, chairman of the California Democratic Party Art Torres spoke by candlelight to the group and eight others like it spread throughout the state that were listening in on a conference call. It took only moments for the Bush bashing to begin.
“I just read the president’s speech when it was given to me a few minutes ago,” Torres said. “It’s depressing as you can get. He even has a comment in Spanish, as if he can speak Spanish.”
“Maybe better than English,” one man said.
Torres also took aim at Bush’s stance on the war in Iraq.
“How dare you suggest that we’re not behind our troops over there,” Torres said. “We want them home and they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”
Torres used the moment to rally his fellow democrats. He asked them to get involved in the campaign by volunteering, phone banking and precinct walking.
Five weeks earlier, the group had watched their own presidential nominee take to the podium. Tonight, their attention was fixed on his opponent as two large American flags parted and the president appeared on stage at Madison Square Garden. The San Francisco democrats jeered and taunted Bush and almost all remained in their seats for the entire speech.
“We will build a safer world and a more hopeful America -- and nothing will hold us back,” Bush said.
“Except him,” one Democrat shouted to the group.
One viewer counted the “lies” Bush told during his speech and at one point chanted, “Four more lies. Four more lies.”
The Kerry supporters laughed several times during the speech, when Bush said he was running for reelection with a compassionate conservative philosophy and when he spoke in Spanish.
Bush received a back-handed compliment from the group on a health insurance proposal.
“More than half of the uninsured are small business employees and their families,” Bush said. “In a new term, we must allow small firms to join together to purchase insurance at the discounts available to big companies.”
“That’s his first good idea tonight,” one older woman said.
The loudest applause came when a protester appeared in the convention arena and was quickly escorted out. And towards the end the group chanted, “We want Kerry. We want Kerry.”
Many of the younger members of the viewing group were upset group that Bush invoked the memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks several times during the speech.
“It’s offensive using the memory of 9-11 for political gain,” Sarah Weston said. “Especially for people who have lost people during that time, it’s just horrible.”
For Leno and Daly, the evening was the climax of a convention they characterized as divisive and mean spirited.
“This is just a convention brought to you by the WWF (World Wrestling Federation),” Daly said. “It’s no holds barred.”
“The entire week they were selling fear,” Leno said. “Fear that if we change leaders now the world will come to an end ... and divisive that anyone who thinks differently than them is unpatriotic.”
Both agreed that democrats had been more reserved during their convention in Boston. Bush mentioned Kerry, either by name or “my opponent,” nine times on Thursday night. During Kerry’s acceptance speech, the president was addressed three times.
“All the taunting poses a danger for Kerry,” viewer Erik Wood said. “I think it’s a danger he can overcome.”
Lisa Williams, the Democratic Party campaign director for San Francisco, said the tone of the GOP convention has helped boost voter participation at the campaign office. The number of people walking into the campaign office and offering to help out doubled during the convention.
“The telephone started ringing off the hook,” Williams said. “People call and say, ‘I want to come and volunteer, what can I do?’”
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