January 20, 2021

The unconventional convention?

Posted on 10. Sep, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

I remember when political conventions used to be a hoot. I got a kick out of watching the Ridiculous Meter go off the charts when TV cameras spied delegates wearing elephant hats, Uncle Sam outfits and other outrageous getups, some straight from Ringling Brothers’ wardrobe wagon.

Seemed, too, that the conventions of old weren’t scripted down to the minutest detail. Thankfully, there were no teleprompters back then to steer the speakers’ every word.

This year there was one genuine moment from the Democrats’ convention that will go down in the annals of convention history.

It was when the delegates were asked for a voice vote on re-inserting the words God and Jerusalem back into the party platform (seems somebody had left them out and the President wanted them back in, thus requiring a vote from the delegates).

Dem Convention Chairman and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for a voice vote three times before showing real democracy by adopting the platform change with less than the 2/3 majority required to do so.

I guess he was going for a version of the old Flip Wilson, ‘the Devil made me do it’ rule here and say that he had to call it that way because it was on his teleprompter!

For my money, this one event was worth sitting through the full three days of the convention – not just for the deer in the headlights look on Villaraigosa’s face – but for the departure from the rigid programming that now characterizes these conventions.

Over in Tampa, the previous week, the Republicans had their own magical moment when Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood decided he’d go off-script and talk to an empty chair that supposedly held the President. I cringed watching the great actor and director reduce himself to a comedic role for which he clearly wasn’t prepared.

It was like seeing Richard Nixon doing stand-up, telling jokes about Spiro Agnew.

Conventions have become Petri dishes into which are added all manner of speakers designed to address every conceivable voter demographic or special interest group.

I counted the following: celebrities, working mothers and single women, the handicapped, Black Americans, Latinos, labor unions, athletes, pro-abortion groups, the military, small business owners, teachers, conservationists, anti-big energy and anti-big government types, and seniors.

I kept waiting for them to get really specific, bringing on speakers representing New England ball-bearing manufacturers, blind ATV off-roaders, transsexual spelling bee winners and maybe disgraced dead politicians, but it never happened.

There were no great surprises for the Repubs. They didn’t exhume Ronald Reagan and prop him up in front of an American flag near the podium. They just had “workmanlike” (quote from the media) speeches by the candidates.

The Democrats on the other hand did recycle former President Bill Clinton (the Dem commentators and surrogates called him “former President Clinton” I think to remind their faithful that Bubba wasn’t on the ballot).

Clinton proceeded to give a lecture on domestic realpolitik that focused largely on himself and his eight years in office and a father/son talk on the birds and the bees.

I stopped counting the, “Listen to this; it’s important” lines as I was transfixed by his crooked index finger that was busy doing an intricate dance of the sugar plum fairies while he droned on, effectively keeping the real President waiting behind the curtain.

Then the President spoke, and my mind went back to FDR and his Fireside Chats, John Wayne in any war movie, Knut Rockne at half-time, and finally it landed on Davy Crockett at the Alamo. The Beatles crept in there too, with the ‘Long and Winding Road.’ It was heady.

I’m sure glad I didn’t have go anywhere afterwards because I couldn’t have driven my car for fear I would have been cited for driving under the influence.

Words and exceptional speakers will do that to you, and I’ve found I need to decompress after the conventions to regain my equilibrium. Thank goodness the debates are a month away so I’ll have plenty of time to prepare for my next political rush.

- Editor


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