Tuesday, September 4, 2012
The Republican Convention in Tampa has been over for a few days now and the Democratic Convention is getting ready to begin its first prime time evening as I write this. I watched only a few of the speeches from the ponderous elephantine event last week that I thought would be worthwhile (and one I'll talk about later), so it would be only fitting that I give the jackass pronouncements of this week from Charlotte much the same treatment.
The marvels of modern technology were in fact created for things like political conventions. It allows us to use the vast resources of the 24-hour news networks and Internet to surf past the natural fertilizer production, occasional poor writing, and sometimes even worse delivery of some of those trotted onto the national stage for their fifteen minutes; saving ourselves to watch only the Sportscenter version of scoring plays. Except for the die-hard supporters, monomaniacal detractors, and political camp followers; there is little reason for the rest of us to know or care about in the minute-by-minute goings on at the convention. After all, the candidates had locked up their respective nominations long before. It's not like we're going to get a surprise ending.
Oh hell, let's just admit that political parties seem unable to recognize that these events are so boring that Network television thinks that shows about middle-aged women with too much reconstructive surgery and too little sense of shame or caricatures of human beings buying somebody's left over crap out of a storage locker are more likely to garner viewers than the selection process of the national leader. (Sadly, they're right.)
The organizers of these events have apparently failed to keep up with the tastes of their more technically advanced audience, in spite of their condescension to this 'New America' by showing 'tweets' and talking about blogging (while carefully holding back the elitist gagging). Where's the Red Carpet? Where are the vacuous, but pleasant looking interviewers asking the most attractive of the delegates from which designer they got that lovely 'Uncle Sam' stovepipe hat? And if we have to put up with the 50 state drone of the roll call vote, why can't we have the delegates from each state illustrating what their state is famous for with musical numbers performed by the cast of 'Glee' instead of attempting us to tell us in stentorian tones that they are 'the pickle state'?
And speaking of delegates, did anyone tell the Republicans that they got cheated on the size of their gathering? Only 2,286 of them got to pick their party's winner (or loser). The Democrats meanwhile, are going to let 5,556 vote in an election where the incumbent is running unopposed. Does this mean that Republicans tried to reduce the budget of their convention by comparison or should this be considered a 'draconion cut' in representation? As for Democrats, does having more than twice as many delegates make them more Democratic, or does it simply mean that their convention will have a bigger carbon footprint? On balance however, you have to hand it to Democrats for being on point by demonstrating to the nation that letting greater numbers vote is a good thing, and inconsistent by making attendees show a picture ID (something they continue to fight for the November process) before doing so.
As far as the soaring rhetoric that was and will be delivered in these two weeks, I still think Sam Seaborn and Toby Ziegler wrote better for "The West Wing". I'm sure however, that those in Charlotte will perform their parts equally as well as their predecessors in Tampa. Carefully scripted with 'applause pauses' (some of which will be missed) there will be touching stories, fire and brimstone threats, and inspirational moments enough to energize the already faithful to wave their pre-printed signs and chant what are probably well-rehearsed catchphrases (just as the camera cuts away from the speaker on stage to the party faithful). Test audience reactions will then be carefully weighed by backstage media consultants to decide which ones will be re-used in campaign speeches in the weeks ahead.
And there will be the occasional slip. Now don't get me wrong here because I have nothing but the greatest respect for Clint Eastwood as a writer, director, actor, and musician. I likewise believe that the act of going on that stage with a chair as a last minute prop and without a script may have shown more courage than his Dirty Harry character ever showed in film. I even believe he made a couple of points that needed to be made. I also believe that Clint Eastwood the director, as a renowned artist behind the camera famous for delivering consummate visual perfection of image and dialogue can only look back at the occasionally rambling performance that he gave and want to yell, "Cut! OK, let's reset, take it from the top, and shoot another take".
That too however, is the nature of a political convention. These are live shows after all, except for the visual images carefully displayed behind the speakers; images to inspire feelings of patriotism, fidelity, and reverence. Oh yeah, and let's not forget the combination of music, equally carefully chosen so that young voters know that the party is 'hip' (Do they still use that word?); but not so hip that middle-aged and senior voters feel that they've lost touch.
No, the truth of the matter is that political conventions have become little more than poorly directed awards ceremonies. The political faithful gather in a 'fun town' for a gathering where they can set aside complaints that there's too much money in politics long enough for them to be properly and lavishly entertained. Each party's delegates can gather together with like-minded people to sympathize with each other about how little the other party's 'stinking, lousy, rat bastards' care about toning down the vitriol and personal attacks in political campaigns; a situation that can only fixed if their candidate kicks the shit of his P.O.S. opponent and their party takes control and shuts up their opposing opinions once and for all.
Might I dare to suggest that if this is the way the parties are going to conduct their business in the future however, that they might want to seek out proven 'hosts' to keep things up tempo and on track, get the TV ratings back where they belong, and garner more coverage for their respective parties. For apparently like me, most of the nation appears to be feeling decidedly unconventional.
(I'm thinking Billy Crystal's proven track record would serve the Democrats well, and Dennis Miller could well provide the answer for the Republicans. If we have to be inspired for 2-3 evenings, the least the parties could do is give us an occasional laugh to blunt the pain.)