Mark Chiusano /opinion/columnists/mark-chiusano

Mark Chiusano is a member of the Newsday and amNew York editorial board.

CLEVELAND – Megawatt political figures past and present normally headline the lineup for presidential nominating conventions. But much of the long evenings are made up of more everyday Americans. That list is markedly different at the Republican vs. Democratic conventions.

On Monday night, Donald Trump’s campaign presented veterans who told stories of war and regular citizens whose family members had been affected by tragedy.

The Democratic National Convention released its own list of everyday Americans who will speak at their convention, and it is similar to the Republicans’ list in that the speakers had overcome adversity or spoke about a deep problem in their lives. The full list of political speakers at the Democratic convention has not yet been released.

Naturally, the stories on both sides are being used for political purpose.

The anecdotes punctuate the candidates’ argument (or shore up voter support). But the Republican list takes stories of tragedies that are told with a narrow purpose — riling listeners up about the perceived transgressions of Hillary Clinton, particularly in Benghazi.

Thus, the emotional story of Pat Smith, whose son Sam Smith died in the 2012 attack on Benghazi, and the battlefield exploits of John Tiegen and Mark Geist, Marine veterans of the same attack. Rather than resulting in relief or change, they end in “Crooked Hillary.”

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Despite the exhaustive House Select Committee on Benghazi’s not finding any direct misconduct on the part of Clinton, tragedy and poor planning up and down the chain aside.  

Or the multiple stories of Americans killed by immigrants here illegally — which ended in shouts of “illegals” — despite evidence that those immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than full citizens.

The planned Democratic speakers are also chosen for pointed demographic or political purposes. Like Joe Sweeney, an NYPD detective who survived 9/11. Or Karla Ortiz, an American citizen, and her mother Francisca Ortiz, who is in the United States without documentation and fears deportation. There's also Khizr Khan, a father whose Muslim son died while serving as a U.S. soldier.

But the speakers are also examples of larger problems that actually exist.

Beth Mathias, an Ohio woman working two jobs highlights the country’s economic issues, which Clinton says she will address. Survivors of the mass shooting in Sandy Hook in 2012 might depict a need for gun control — a large national debate.

Maybe something will come of those stories next week in Philadelphia, beyond more accusations.