Genius Panel: Observations (Mostly Negative) Regarding GOP & Democratic Conventions

blue 01This week’s question: What are your thoughts about the just-completed GOP convention and the upcoming Democratic convention?

Robert Spendlove, state representative and Zions Bank economic and policy officer. Republicans struggled to show a uniform and cohesive message and to show how they can improve our country at their convention last week.  It started in the very public fight about the rules surrounding the presidential nomination and continued with the Ted Cruz non-endorsement of Donald Trump in his floor speech. It’s never a good sign when a prominent speaker is booed off the stage at a convention.

There was an opportunity for salvation when Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, introduced him on the last night of the convention. Her speech was personable, positive, encouraging, and she shed her father in a very good light. Unfortunately, his speech undid much of the goodwill she accomplished. Rather than being inspiring and positive, his speech was full of negativity and fear mongering.

The Republican convention was not the kind of uniting affair that GOP members needed.

The Democratic convention could turn out to be just as unpredictable. A coordinated effort by party leaders to kill the Sanders campaign will have major implications for the convention. The resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz may be a harbinger of another week of contentious fights between factions in the Democratic party that may play out throughout the convention.

Theresa Foxley, attorney and deputy director, Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Plagiarism by Melania, classlessness by Cruz, and darkness from the candidate. It was almost a complete failure; but Trump’s kids, who seem authentic, provided redeeming moments and were a nice break from the drama and uninspiring negativity.

After the high drama of last week’s RNC, the DNC should be a snooze-fest in comparison. 

Howard Headlee, president, Utah Bankers Association. Who would have thought that Ted Cruz could unify the Republican party behind Trump?  Certainly not Ted Cruz.  Inside of 60 minutes last Wednesday, Cruz unwittingly surrendered the conservative mantle on the stage at the RNC, and Mike Pence walked out and brilliantly picked it up.  If Trump engineered that, he is a genius.  That’s not how nominating conventions are traditionally engineered to create unity, but this is not a traditional year. 

I would guess the Democrats didn’t have a contingency plan for WikiLeaks either.  The Clinton War Room/DNC response to the damning release of 20,000 internal emails further bolsters Trump’s image as a genius.  “Pay no attention to the blatant evidence of the rigged system Trump has been talking about, this is really a story about Putin?”  Clearly, they are reeling when they are forced to take sides with Mitt Romney and admit that Putin is our #1 geo-political foe.

Here’s my takeaway, the way we choose our candidates for President is fatally flawed (anything that starts in Iowa is doomed!).  But fear not, the solution can be found in the way we choose our candidates for Vice President.  After all, we would all be better served by a Presidential election between Mike Pence, Tim Kaine, and William Weld.

Richard Kendell, former school superintendent, commissioner of higher education, and key governor advisor. I thought the GOP Convention was a great example of reality TV.  Reality TV is the most favored genre of television in America so the Convention should be a big hit.  What is essential for Reality TV is the viewer’s suspension of disbelief.  The actors, settings, and plots see very real, even though we know that each show is fully scripted and recorded by a film crew, lighting and sound staff and a support team of dozens.  Nevertheless millions of Americans enjoy pretending.

And so it goes with the GOP Convention.  Speakers provide information that is only partially true; propose solutions to problems that are unlikely or won’t work; they make promises that in all likelihood they cannot or will not keep.  The show reminds of an apocryphal story about an interview with a Soviet worker.  He is asked how the economy is going, and he says, “Just fine—we pretend to work, and the state pretends to pay us.”

I liked the fact that the Utah delegation brought a little excitement to the proceedings, misguided as it was.  I would have been more excited with a group hug on the platform with Ted Cruz, Mike Lee (Ted Cruz light) Gayle Ruzicka, Greg Hughes (the non-delegate) and John Swallow.  If this seems like a bit of a stretch, remember that John Swallow famously said that when Gayle Ruzicka passes he will be there to usher her into the Celestial Kingdom.  So, maybe a group hug is not such a big deal after all.

Will Rogers really caught the essence of my comments—“ Congress is so strange; a man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees.”

Boyd Matheson, president, the Sutherland Institute. The Republican National Convention provided fascinating glimpses into a wide array of issues including lack of leadership and organization, ego and mob mentality, power and maintaining the status quo.  Little was done to advance the principles and policies that are the essence of American exceptionalism and essential to thriving citizens, homes, and communities.

I was disappointed that two full days were spent bashing Hillary Clinton and re-litigating every jot and tittle of her email scandal and the tragedy of Benghazi.  Led by the Trump campaign “whip team” stationed in the aisles around the convention center, they routinely broke into chants of “Lock her up,” and “Guilty” during a series of angry speeches.  They appeared ready to launch into a Monte Python style chant of, “Burn her she’s a witch!”  It is fine to take on a political opponent and challenge or expose their record – this was not that.

The Grand Old Party looked more old than grand, but there were moments that were fresh and a few bright spots when young people were given the chance to shine.  The Democrats have just begun their convention with similar turmoil and palace intrigue including the revelation of emails showing a primary election system that was biased and their national chairwomen resigning in disgrace.  It should be another interesting week in politics.

Both political parties are teetering on the edge.  Both parties are resisting the disruption of our day that is transforming every aspect of business and our personal lives.  Both parties seem unwilling or unable to adapt and seem determined to cling to what has been. The American people deserve better and should expect more.  I am convinced that the first Wednesday of November will mark the beginning of massive change and a new era for political parties in America.

Steve Handy, state representative and former Deseret News marketing director. Dumpster fire, train wreck, and Shakespearian tragedy are only a few of my descriptions for the Republican National Convention…the whole mood was just sour including the looks on the faces of the Utah delegation!

Just a few months ago we all talked about the high drama of a contested convention, but when Trump went over the top in delegates, there should have been an effort to stage a coronation. Instead, what we got was a reality TV show that Americans are curiously drawn to like moths to a flame partially because of the unpredictability, and that’s exactly what we got. And it’s not lost on anyone that Trump came into national prominence because of his now-famous utterance, “You’re fired” on his own TV reality show.

Thank goodness it’s over, and now we buckle up for the Democrats. I expect the decorum and vitriol to reach a high crescendo bringing out the worst in politics that will turn off even more voters. At least the coming Olympics may provide a little bit of a hopeful diversion.

The faithful and even fence sitters are supposed to come out of a national convention with vision, hope, and the enthusiasm required to sprint to victory in November.

Instead, I’m afraid we’re left with the fulfillment of a prophecy from Proverbs: “Where there is no vision the people (insert your own words, the Republican Party, etc.) perish.”

Donald J. Trump earned the crown but leaves Cleveland with it not fitting well on his famously coiffed head.

Val Oveson, former lieutenant governor, state auditor, and National Taxpayer Advocate. The lack of Party unity was evident at the Republican Convention and will continue to be a problem going into the fall. Donald Trump did nothing during the convention to reconcile the Party or pivot to the center for the fall campaign. His acceptance speech was shocking. He reinforced my fears of his temperament, ego, and dictatorial nature.

The Democrats’ platform turn to the left, forced by Sander’s surprisingly successful primary campaign, will hurt Hillary in the fall. I expect to see a lot of grousing over Tim Kaine, and the Democrat’s will have their unity problems. However, they will not be as bad as the Republicans unity issues. I expect Hillary’s acceptance speech to be disciplined and well prepared. She will do a better job of the pivot to the center in preparation for the fall campaign.  I expect the Democrat’s will get the greater post-convention bounce in the polls.   

Matt Sibul, public transit executive. I caught the highlights of the RNC, but just like the Dems version this week, that’s all I really need.  One of the main questions I have is how much fear can be peddled before people really see through it all?  How do the stats of things such as the real reduction of violent crime rates over the past two decades in our country get tossed aside in favor of blowhard rhetoric that enrages and divides us?  I’m an optimist in general, and in this case, no matter who ends up taking their mail at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I’m hopeful and optimistic that we can take a step back and realize as a society we are all better off when we can have thoughtful, meaningful dialogue and debates with each other without getting into nasty name calling.  The process is not simple and can sometimes be maddening, but it is how cultures unite and ultimately prosper.   I believe that deep down there is a hunger for this type of viewpoint.  Unfortunately, it was not on the menu in Cleveland.

Nolan Karras, former gubernatorial candidate and Utah House speaker. GOP convention helped…through peer pressure… Trump. GOP made to feel they have no choice and they better get in line, or they will have Hillary, etc.  I have heard from friends since who are now resigned to vote for the GOP ticket. VP pick will help Republicans get on board but is not an imaginative pick and doubt he will help in November.

Democratic VP pick solid, and in both cases, VP should be on top of the ticket. Trump easy target for Democrats, and I believe Demo convention will do more for Hillary than GOP for Trump.

Trump keeps putting his foot in his mouth…today it is about Cruz’s father again . . . What an idiot. 

We will see in about 3 months.

Mark Bouchard, senior managing partner, Southwest Region, CBRE Utah, and education reformer. It would be fair to say the Republican Convention was unlike any in recent history, speaking to the divided nature of the party, particularly those considered “party leadership.” The line of the convention, ”Vote your Conscience” more than anything sums up where many Republicans are today.

My guess is we will see a much more unified Democratic Convention both in leadership, messaging and vision. Where voters will land in November is anyone’s guess.