For two campaigns that try to avoid the terminology of ideology and philosophy -- as is usual in modern politics -- it doesn't get any clearer, any more "polarizing," than this. And that's a good thing. It divides the two political camps according to their distinguishing ideals: the idealization of state power (Democrats) vs. the idealization of individual rights (Republicans). It's statism vs. liberty.
Democrat keynote speaker Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, helped highlight the chasm separating the two parties when he referred to the individual success stories that were showcased at the Republican convention last week. "We all celebrate individual success," Castro said. "But the question is, how do we multiply that success? The answer is President Barack Obama."
For Democrats in the 21st century, the answer to everything is the state. Take the life stories Democrat convention speakers tell, particularly the immigrant success stories, which so many Americans -- even Republicans! -- can invoke. In the Democratic version, modest beginnings are emphasized (the more squalid the details, the better), and the American tradition of upward mobility is catalyzed by a government program and ultimately defined by winning or securing government office. The Democrats' message seems to be: If you work hard and vote Democrat, you can end up in government office, too!
The contrast to the Republican message couldn't be starker. In his "empty chair" monologue, which brilliantly crystallized GOP principles in 10 short minutes, Clint Eastwood put it this way: "I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen. Something that is very important. It is that you, we -- we own this country. We -- we own it. Politicians are employees of ours."
Soon, Americans will choose the country's political fate, which, particularly this time around, is also our own role in the future: subjects or citizens? For once, the choice couldn't be clearer.