Monday, August 25, 2008

On With The Show!

Wait a minute! You mean I missed the Olympics? (Who won the prenatal gymnastics medal?) Dayum! And here I was so much looking forward to watching people of every gender, race, creed, color, sexual orientation and nationality vie against one another in a bogus spirit of brotherhood and good will!

Oh, that’s right. I can get the same thing watching the Democratic National Convention, another mostly staged event, this week.

I vaguely remember, no, not the beginning of American political parties, but a time in the 50s and 60s when some honest-to-gawd political business other than marketing was conducted at these conventions. Mind you, much of that business was conducted behind closed doors in (ah, the good old days!) smoke-filled rooms and not on the almost equally smoky convention floor. Still, deals were cut, party platform planks (mostly meaningless even then) were bickered over and sometimes even who the candidates were going to be was decided by multiple ballot. Sadly, however, conventions have shifted from political Super Bowls to World Wrestling Federation championship events. Except, of course, that the WWF has the good sense not to tell the viewers in advance who will win.

A Positive Liberty reader recently commented sarcastically on another thread discussing the legacy of the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, saying with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek that “1968 was the pivotal moment in all of human history, past and future.” Speaking on behalf of my terminally self-important Baby Boomer generation, I will note only that America’s major political parties did begin to conduct their business differently after 1968. Not so much because of the protests (“Yippie!”) outside the convention center -- after all, it isn’t like a guy named Richard Daley would be mayor of Chicago forever, is it? -- but because of the resulting McGovern-Fraser Commission and the subsequent shift to state primaries as the method of deciding delegates and, thus, selecting candidates.

Another “lesson” from 1968 was the increasing importance of television and therefore the need to control convention and convention related events as much as possible. I don’t think Nixon beat Humphrey in 1968 simply because of the violence in the streets of Chicago during the convention, but it sure as hell didn’t help Humphrey, either.

Needless to say, I won’t be watching either the Democratic or the Republican National Conventions in real time. Any really juicy gaffs or other “must-see” moments will be on YouTube before the evening wrap-up, so I’ll catch Ted Kennedy’s likely swan song, Hillary’s dagger-eyed stares, McCain being reminded how many homes he owns and where he left the keys, etc. in TiVo time.

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