Despite our freedom to pursue our own dreams, we are still one people. Schwarzenegger made it one of his GOP bedrocks that we shouldn't be treated as members of "interest groups." He confronted the two-Americas rhetoric of John Edwards, evoking the unity of national purpose embodied by America's troops, who "believe we are one America, and they are fighting for it!" Can we disagree with one another? Of course. But within reasonable bounds. McCain pleaded for "an argument among friends who share an unshaken belief in our great cause, and in the goodness of each other."
The GOP nationalism is anchored in idealism, lest it become mere bullying or bombast. McCain captured this most eloquently, speaking of how American troops "sacrifice to affirm that right makes might" and "that love is greater than hate." After 9/11, President Bush famously vowed that the world would soon hear from us. That warning had the whiff of vengeance to it. But as Rudy Giuliani pointed out: "They have heard from us a message of peace through free, accountable, lawful and decent governments."
It is American power, not any multilateral institution, that is the guarantor of those ideals. "This country, not the United Nations, is the best hope of democracy," Schwarzenegger declared. We reserve the right to exercise that power in a sovereign manner, free of noxious constraints. Miller hit Kerry for wanting to "let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide."
None of these speeches could have comfortably been given at the Democratic Convention. The Boston Democrats still has not shed its suspicion of American power acquired during Vietnam. That is not a problem affecting the New York Republicans, who truly believe America has nothing to be guilty about or apologize for.