The Republican and Democratic National Conventions are nothing but elaborate media performances. These conventions are each candidate’s best chance to tell their story on their own terms, without interference from each respective opposite side. Everyone shows up at the convention already knowing who the nominee will be. There are few surprises here (save for Clint Eastwood talking to a chair). Each convention is a red, white, and blue debutante ball– an outdated tradition, perhaps, but certainly still pretty to watch.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the RNC in Tampa. During the last night of the convention, a series of real Americans got up to talk about their experiences with Mitt Romney. Most were personal friends of Mitt – a colleague of his at Bain Capital, a mother who leaned on Mitt for moral support when her infant daughter was ill, and an elderly couple who brought the entire stadium to tears with their story of Mitt being there for their terminally ill teenage son. You saw this on television, unless you were watching MSNBC, which skipped the speech to cover (drum roll please): some other guy talking about how Mitt Romney is a Mormon. MSNBC is definitely where you go for breaking news like “The Mormon guy is STILL a Mormon!”

I know that each one of these speakers was hand-picked to give a specific impression of the candidate. I know that they may have been focus-group tested, and were probably subjected to hair and makeup and wardrobe that isn’t their day-to-day style. I also know that you could probably find some people who personally dislike Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney could hop the White House fence and spray paint “YOLO” into Obama’s front yard tomorrow, and it would in no way detract from the good he has done for the people we heard from at the RNC.

What would be really awful -for Mitt, or for any candidate- would be if the convention organizers just couldn’t name anybody he had helped with his policies. If there were no “Real Americans” the campaign knew of to ask to speak on his behalf. That is exactly the predicament the Obama team faced going into the Democratic National Convention this week.

Documents obtained by Politico show the DNC seeking to cast the following roles for “social contrast” segments on each night of the convention:

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Gay soldier and fellow (straight) soldier who served together in Iraq or Afghanistan (ideally the straight soldier was helped by the gay soldier, i.e., medic, in fire fight) … Planned Parenthood: Husband who talks about how a PAP smear saved his wife’s life and his spouse … Immigration: Two young people from the same family, one who was born here, the other a few years older who was not … Choice: A couple who has children, but wants to make their own decisions, not have the government do it for them (or who has confronted a difficult medical situation).”

The documents specifically request that no gay couples be used in the “social contrast” segments.

It is sad that the Obama team has to put out a casting call for Real Americans who have benefited from the President’s policies. For all the talk about Obama standing up for the little guy, one would hope that the administration could name at least one little guy or gal who’s better off now than they were four years ago. I’m not saying that these people don’t exist; I’m saying that the Obama administration should be down to earth enough to know who these people are. This is a symptom of one of three things: Either the Obama team is so out of touch that they just don’t know many Real Americans, or the President’s policies just haven’t helped any Real Americans who are willing to speak at the DNC, or the true outcome of Obama’s policies hasn’t been the storybook ending that the administration had hoped. Any one of these is a bad sign for Obama, and an even worse sign for the country.

The DNC has gone so far as to “cast” not only its “Real American” speakers, but also its audience. They bused in 20,000 Muslims to participate in “Jumah at the DNC,” which is an official, DNC-sponsored event. Now, I have no problem with a bunch of praying Muslims, so long as they’re praying for the good of America. But I do have a problem with selective media outrage. Could you imagine the scandal it would be if the RNC had bused in a bunch of Christians for a religious event sponsored by the convention? Yet somehow, the fearless defenders of the separation of church and state have been silent on this DNC event.

Likewise, the DNC’s choice to ban kids under the age of six from the convention floor -and therefore exclude many breastfeeding moms or moms who can’t afford child care- has somehow magically been omitted from the War on Women that the Left wing just loves to talk about. I saw several parents with strollers at the RNC, and though I’m not sure if those parents were delegates or guests, I don’t recall a single screaming baby at the convention. It should be no problem at all for the DNC to welcome mothers and fathers of young children.

Different speakers have different rules at the DNC, too. Cardinal Dolan’s offer to pray at the convention was initially denied, but then later accepted. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, still hasn’t submitted his speech for review, and the DNC seems largely okay with that.

So, Dems, let me get this straight: Twenty thousand Muslims, okay, and sponsored by the DNC itself. One Catholic Cardinal, not okay, but then later okay. A gay soldier, okay, if he has a straight friend to bring with him. A gay couple, not okay. Moms with babies, not okay. Sandra Fluke, okay. A former President whose wife ran against the incumbent during the last election cycle, so very okay that he doesn’t need a proofreader.

If the DNC is supposed to show us the Democratic Party’s vision for America, then they’re showing us quite a specific and complicated picture. Despite difficulties with casting and with determining the in-house audience, the show must go on;the nation will be watching.

Angela Morabito
| Georgetown University | @_AngelaMorabito