Democratic anger has been a hot topic this election year. The rap on Howard Dean during the presidential primary campaign, recall, was that he was just too red-faced and volatile to be trusted at the controls of the federal government. (Go relive the Iowa Scream if you need a reminder.) Al Gore's sanity was questioned by conservative pundits when he gave a couple of rip-roaring speeches recently. And Republicans created an ad featuring an entire Coalition of the Wild-eyed (complete with Hitler imagery).
But anger, even if it's a theme heard in the hallways, caucus rooms and hotel bars in Boston this week, won't be the dominant party line we'll hear from the podium at the Fleet Center, according to the New York Times, which quotes Kerry campaign and DNC officials saying they don't want their convention to turn into a four-day Bush-bashing fest. Here's the Washington Post's version: "In Boston, Democrats Seek a Positive Sign: Party Aims for Upbeat Tone at Convention." One Kerry surrogate's explanation, from the Post: "'This is more a convention for introducing John Kerry to people who don't know him,' Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm told Washington Post editors and reporters Sunday afternoon. 'That's why you're not going to hear the partisan rhetoric you've heard [at past conventions] ... This is about persuasion. It's not about rallying the troops.'"
It's unclear, of course, whether party officials -- even the nominee -- can really rein in criticism of Bush, or even if they truly want to. Indeed, some leading Democrats openly questioned the merits of sending a uniformly cheerful message at a time when the country faces historic challenges and so needs new leadership. The Times quotes Jesse Jackson as saying: "It takes negative and positive to make electricity."