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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
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.
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