Read Stephen's bio and previous columns


August 18, 2008

The Conventions: Nothing Will Happen, and I Won’t Miss a Moment


The summer political lull is almost over, and the conventions are finally here. The Democrats are in Denver next week, and the Republicans in Minneapolis-St. Paul the week after. No news will be made, no more than one or two actually significant things will happen. But . . . for true political junkies, it's like Christmas in August (or September).


In Denver, Barack Obama is set to deliver an outdoor speech in front of 70,000 fans at Invesco Field, four years after his legendary 2004 keynote, and on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech. To call it the most highly anticipated speech in American political history may even be an understatement.


Vice presidents will be chosen, keynote addresses delivered and the parties will try to get voters excited about their candidate. Starting with both stronger electoral fundamentals and a much more exciting candidate, the Democrats appear to have an easier road to hoe. But if this election year has taught us anything, it's that no candidacy is dead until it's really, really dead, and no nominee is ever inevitable.


Those in the media and elsewhere who hoped for an Obama-Hillary convention floor fight will have to settle for mere awkwardness instead, as the two Clintons are set to speak on the second and third nights of the event. Will the pro-Hillary PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) crowd cause trouble? What about other protestors? Will the Democrats at least have the good sense to keep Michael Moore far, far away from the proceedings?


Who will show up? Who won't? I think we can all safely deduce that we won't be seeing John Edwards in Denver, or Eliot Spitzer. Jesse Jackson is said to not be invited to the Democratic gathering – apparently that's what happens when you threaten on national television to castrate the presumptive nominee of your party.


But eight years doing much worse things than Jackson only speculated about still wasn't enough to get Dick Cheney disinvited from St. Paul.


George W. Bush, meanwhile, will speak on the convention's first night, seemingly to put as much distance between him and John McCain as possible.


The Democrats in 2004 ran a centrist convention that largely de-emphasized Bush-bashing, though aside from Obama's speech the only things anyone remembers about it are John Kerry's lame "reporting for duty" line, and the fact that Moore appeared.


The GOP, meanwhile, trotted out Zell Miller, who delivered an angry, invective-filled keynote speech before later challenging Chris Matthews to a duel.


I remember, living in New York during the 2004 Republican confab, walking around the city all day and seeing Midwestern convention-goers on one side of me, angry protestors on another, before being passed in the other direction by David Gergen or Charles Rangel or Wolf Blitzer.


I also remember hearing a girl in a “Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade” t-shirt expressing thankfulness that no “extremists” had showed up to that day's protest.


I also remember feeling very, very conservative seeing all the protestors from the avowedly Maoist groups during the day, yet feeling very very liberal at night as I watched speeches by the likes of Dick Cheney and Miller.


I expect to feel the same way when this year's GOP convention takes place, once again in a blue state in which I have lived. Even better is that, with McCain running, we're certain to a couple of speeches designed to “rev up the base” and get the conservative vote out. I expect liberals to host drinking games counting how many times Jeremiah Wright's name is mentioned from the podium. References to the nearby Minneapolis bridge collapse, and its present rebuilding, should rival that, especially if Tim Pawlenty is the vice-presidential nominee.


Then again, there seems to be, at least according to a Politico story last week, not a whole lot of enthusiasm about the convention, with many top Republicans opting to skip out. Why? Is Minneapolis-St. Paul too far to travel? Not enough of an attraction? (It's not that cold in September, I swear!) Or are they just not that unenthused about McCain? “Nobody likes a funeral,” one GOP senator's press secretary told Politico.


Sure, networks will provide less and less coverage, convention “bounces” will likely dissipate after a few days and, once again, few newsworthy or memorable events will take place in either city. But the conventions remain great TV, and I'll be watching every night.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # SS115. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause