GOP Displays Unity and Diversity
Republican convention delegates join in supporting Bush and blaming Congress and a `liberal' press
REPUBLICANS gathered here are anxiously awaiting the "defining moment," the speech with which they hope President Bush will breathe new life into his lackluster campaign for reelection.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But as the convention builds to tonight's climax, concerns about the party's hold on the White House seem somehow dwarfed by the massive spectacle under the Houston Astrodome.
The brilliant red-carpeted floor of the convention is like a microscope slide on which 2,210 delegates from around the country are scrutinized by the 15,000 members of the press, and by millions more television viewers at home.
If they are ideological soul mates, little else may unite this wildly disparate congregation of party faithful.
But during the four-day convention they were all pulled together, from housewives to presidential Cabinet members, getting their two-cents worth in on TV soundbites and nibbling hors d'oeuvres side-by-side at Texas barbecues.
Here is a sampling of the convention environment and how a few of the participants have reacted to the extravaganza that inaugurates the final lap of the 1992 presidential campaign.
Vermont delegate Susan Sweetzer, now attending her third convention, started at the top. In 1980, as a 20-year-old college senior, she was selected to deliver a brief seconding speech for Ronald Reagan.
"There were balloons falling, my state delegation was in the front row, and Tom Brokaw was right in front of me. It was an incredible experience. I was just a kid," Ms. Sweetzer says. The once-in-a-lifetime experience cemented her loyalties to the GOP.
SWEETZER says she became a Republican because the party stood for growth and confidence.
"I refused to believe all the talk that we couldn't have it as good as our parents. I didn't believe it then; I don't believe it now," she says.
She's stayed a member of the Republican Party because she believes it's a party that cares. A rape victim, she received help from Vermont Republicans when she set up a victims' aid group, Survivors of Crime, two years ago.
"You don't get that kind of support from a party that doesn't understand," she says.
As for George Bush, she insists he's gotten a bad rap from the press.
"The argument that George Bush doesn't understand mid-America is coming from the media," she says. "He understands where the regular folks of America are coming from. I think George Bush connects from the heart. He's one of us."
LIKE Sweetzer, delegates interviewed across the convention floor here were supportive of Mr. Bush, and seemed to be waiting for the president's speech to give them a reason to be enthusiastic again.
Though he may have disappointed Republicans in general for not being the kind of conservative Ronald Reagan was, and specifically for breaking his no-new-taxes pledge, most delegates aren't blaming him. Instead they point an accusing finger at Congress and the media for his failings.
"The media has a liberal bias; they're opposed to conservatives in government," says Steve Mosier, a delegate from Brush Prairie, Wash.
"If the media gives Bush fair coverage, that will be enough to reelect him. If George Bush doesn't win this election, he will have been beaten by the media, not Bill Clinton," Mr. Mosier says.
The problem, as Clay Foltz, co-chairman of the Kent County, Del., Republican Committee sees it, is slanted press coverage of the president - from the abortion issue to the economy. Such coverage, he believes, "captures elements of the population who may not even vote," distorting the way the majority of the voting public who picked Bush in the first place feels.
Further, Mr. Foltz says, the press wrongly interprets issues. For example, he says, the media say party divisions over abortion weaken Republican support for the Bush-Quayle ticket. But the insurance broker says his own pro-choice abortion stance doesn't diminish his support for Bush.