The Republican National Convention which began Monday in Tampa, Fla., is unlikely to produce many surprises in terms of whom the delegates pick to be the party’s presidential nominee. What will be more interesting once all the pomp and circumstance of formally introducing Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, to the convention delegates has subsided is what the party crafts and adopts as its official platform. That exercise is worth watching for all voters, regardless of political persuasion.
The personalities that shape our elections are certainly interesting – or not, depending on the candidate – to watch, muse about and use to inform our voting decisions. But they are ultimately secondary to the positions that the candidates represent in terms of importance to voters. It is what these men and women will do once they are elected that has a meaningful impact on Americans’ lives – not how approachable or schmoozy or likeable the candidate is.
The Republican National Convention, as with the Democrats’ counterpart next week in Charlotte, N.C., is the place where the party calculates and adopts the policy goals its representatives will work toward if they are elected. These are big and meaningful conversations that deserve the attention of all voters. They are what should most fully inform the decisions made at the voting booth in November.
The personal differences between Romney and President Barack Obama are many, but their political differences are more relevant in terms of choosing which man should be the next president. How will each handle the challenges that continue to burden the nation’s economy? How does each propose to lower the unemployment rate? How will the growing cost of health care be handled? How does the government involve itself in social policy such as family planning or same-sex unions? These are the questions that voters ought to be asking more often than those that ponder whether Romney is too stiff and aloof and Obama is too policy-oriented and not enough of glad-hander.
This week in Tampa, and next week in Charlotte, will be the traditional exercises in galvanizing party unity and rallying the faithful to go out and win one for their respective teams. There is plenty of excitement in the process. There should also be careful scrutiny from observers as the Republicans and Democrats shape their platforms and determine where they would like to take the country in the years to come. Those decisions matter a lot and say much about how lawmakers throughout each party are likely to operate, whatever their personal background.