CHARLOTTE, N.C. - After two weeks of convention immersion, several things are clear.
On the political trail, for example, there's no such thing as enough clean socks or ibuprofen. And beware the shortcomings of second-tier cities. Tampa and Charlotte handle massive conventions like an Oompa-Loompa would handle playing center for the Knicks -- they just can't execute.
Most of all, though, what became clear were the ways in which the parties are alike, and the ways in which they are very, very different.
For instance, both conventions pose a dilemma for speakers, who stand in front of ferocious partisans while trying to woo the undecideds watching at home. Most speechifiers in both parties decided not to appeal to swing voters, likely because they feared attendees would respond to moderate messaging by hurling placards and cold chicken fingers.
So most of the Republican speakers aimed at the true believers, saying basically: "Democrats want a government so powerful it can make you watch PBS documentaries on folk music, wear hemp and force your children to view gay porn during sex-ed class. We, though, will lower your taxes so much you'll be getting paid to be American, and still provide a live-in physician for every senior. Under the Democrats, Medicare will soon consist of only Band-Aids, fluoridated water, mandatory Zumba classes and nutrition seminars. Is that what you want? IS IT?"
Many Democratic speakers wrote their sermons for the choir too. Essentially, they said, "We are the party of abortion. And condoms. For free. And we really don't want being a woman to be a pre-existing condition. OK, we know it's a pre-existing condition, like being human, but we don't want insurance companies to bill based on it. Government should actively encourage gay marriage, by sending newlywed gays a china place setting or George Foreman Grill. You should be able to vote by showing election workers a lottery ticket with your name written on it in pencil. Under Republicans, Medicare will be reduced to nothing but leeches and whiskey. But with us at the wheel, seniors will get daily massages on Uncle Sam, every joint replaced, and, of course, free abortions and condoms."
Any swing voters glued to C-SPAN may well end this process by looking harder at Canadian immigration options than American presidential candidates.
But what stood out most is that attendees at these two galas don't just differ in their politics. They appear to hail from two different nations, or galaxies.
There is, of course, the race and ethnicity thing. The Republican delegations were so white that the few minority members stood out like . . . there's no analogy that won't get me in trouble. The Democrats had a lot more minorities, and a lot darker hair and skin even among the white attendees.
Clothing-wise (and obviously there were exceptions), the Republicans wore suits and dresses, ties and high heels, makeup and monogrammed shirts. The Democrats wore jeans and, for the ladies , jeans. They rocked flip-flops and flats, sneakers and T-shirts, granny dresses and ironic eyeglasses.
The Republican women and Democratic men looked far more stylish than the Republican men and Democratic women, which is odd. A national dating switch may be called for.
So where are we Americans, post-convention, in this quadrennial election process? Right where we were two weeks ago, except for swing voters at home who really paid attention. They're on their way to Toronto.