Monday, August 25, 2008

POLITICAL CONVENTIONS: A USELESS APPENDAGE FROM THE PAST

David Shribman, Globe & Mail, CA - More than half a century ago, the Democrats held their national political convention in Chicago. They took a roll call to decide their presidential nominee, couldn't come to an agreement, took a second ballot, still were deadlocked and finally, on the third try, selected governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois as their choice for the White House in 1952. Talk about drama.

But not once in the next 56 years has an American political party taken a second ballot for president. Not once since then has an American political party started its national convention without knowing the identity of its presidential nominee. Not once in that time has anything happened at an American political convention that has had anything but a harmful effect on the party concerned or on the country.

A political institution with pure American roots and with an inherent sense of theatre has become a big dud

U.S. political conventions have become the appendix of the body politic: a vestige of something that once had a function but no longer does. And yet they endure, against all reason.

They endure, because politicians, like everyone else, enjoy a party. . . They endure, because without them, U.S. political parties themselves would hardly exist. The parties come together, after all, only once every four years, at these gigantic conclaves, and there they vote on nearly meaningless manifestos that are neither paid attention to nor remembered a week later. . .

So ingrained in modern American politics is the notion that the conventions should be - absolutely must be - meaningless that the entire point of the winter and spring series of primaries and caucuses was to prevent anything from happening at the conventions. . .

For weeks, Democratic party officials worried, caucused, held press conferences, floated plans, maneuvered, schemed among themselves, dreamed up plots - all in the service of one goal: to make sure that the Democrats had settled on their nominee before the opening of the convention that was designed to select the party's nominee.

Why? Because party leaders wanted a convention that was quiet, free of contention, lacking in drama. They wanted to emphasize the party's unity of purpose, not provide a showcase for its divisions. . .

But the Republicans are no different, and no better. Never was heard a discouraging word in the conventions that nominated George W. Bush for president in Philadelphia in 2000 and again in New York in 2004. That's the way those conventions were designed, and that's the way the 2008 conventions are designed. . .

Above all, in 2008, the parties want to be sure that they do not relive the disasters of conventions past.

The Democratic nightmare is a rerun of 1968, held after the assassination of senator Robert Kennedy and against the backdrop of rioting in the streets, vulgar gestures in the hall (mayor Richard Daley of Chicago) and the charge, made by a leading party member (senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut), that Mr. Daley was instigating "Gestapo tactics in the streets." . . .

The Republican nightmare is a rerun of the 1992 convention, when Patrick Buchanan, a columnist turned politician, spoke of "a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America," adding, in reference to governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas, the Democratic nominee, and his wife, Hillary: "It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton and Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side." . . .

Both the 1968 Democratic nominee, vice-president Hubert Humphrey, and the 1992 Republican nominee, the sitting president George H.W. Bush, father of the current president, were defeated in the general election in November.

That's why this year's conventions will be choreographed with precision. No opportunities for mischief. No margin for error. No unscripted moments. The Beijing Olympics, organized by Communists who believe in centralized planning, have provided more occasions for spontaneity. And at least in Beijing, no one has known in advance who would win.

1 Comments:

At August 27, 2008 5:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all a boodoggle for the politcos who want to get drunk and laid out of town and the "press" men who want to "network" and screw different hookers, and the corporations who want to worm their way deeper into the candidates. The conventions are like what anti-semitism was to the Nazi party; without them there really is no center, no rallying point for either party. We need to rethink how we run the republic and damn quick.

- Strelnikov

 

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