By the time this column goes to press, the Democratic National Convention should be well underway, with the Rs following later on this month. In both cases, the usually boisterous quadrennial gatherings will probably be rather subdued affairs. Covid-19 has rendered the thought of thousands of folks gathering in a large venue to nominate their respective candidates for President verboten.
That’s a sad state of affairs for those who like to get together for four days, wear silly hats, dance in the aisles, celebrate continuously, wave placards, and applaud ad infinitum every other word their chosen standard-bearer intones after accepting the nomination.
I’ve always gotten a kick out of listening to the head of each state’s delegation take his or her turn at the microphone and sonorously announce, “The great state of (FILL IN THE BLANK), home of the most beautiful women, the handsomest men, the smartest kids, and the largest zucchini ever grown, proudly casts its (NUMBER) delegates for (NAME), the next President of the United States.”
Time was when those kinds of pronouncements actually mattered to the end result. Brokered conventions of days gone by meant no one candidate came into the arena with sufficient pledged votes to win nomination on the first ballot. Horse-trading and smoke-filled back rooms were the norm, with promises made and deals cut, often by former rivals, just to get some kind of consensus on a party’s nominee. (An example? In 1960, do you really think Lyndon Johnson was Jack Kennedy’s first pick to be his Vice President?)
But with the somewhat recent advent of the Primary season that now permeates the political calendar, nominees are pretty much a foregone conclusion before the first balloon is blown up at the convention site. The gatherings are now made-for-TV events.
As in the recent past, Democrat bigwigs are slotted to speak in prime time based on their popularity with the party populace. No doubt the Clintons and the Obamas will have command of the podium for a while. Given his age, it’s doubtful Jimmy Carter will make an appearance, although since most everything will be done remotely, he may say a few words. Major officeholders such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have probably been sharpening their knives for a Trump dissection. That’s their collective job, so no surprise there. And, of course, America will have the opportunity to hear from new VP pick Kamala Harris and Joe B. himself.
When it’s the Republicans’ turn, it’ll be interesting to see who gets trotted out to speak. As a former President, George W. Bush would normally get a chance to hear the roar of the crowd again. But there ain’t no crowd. And “W” and The Donald apparently aren’t bosom buddies. Still, the party faithful would probably like for #43 to say a few kind words about Republicans in general. Regardless of Bush’s plans, I’m sure all speaking slots will be filled. It’s a good bet 2012 nominee Mitt Romney will be on vacation in Utah, but there are plenty of other Republican senators, congresspersons, and governors ready to fill any void. Mike Pence will no doubt do his duty and slice and dice all things Democrat. And President Trump may deliver his acceptance speech from the Rose Garden. That would certainly be a first.
I know both parties will try desperately to entice We the People to tune in and turn on to their respective candidates and messages. But, frankly, over the past couple of decades, the conventions have basically become snoozefests. TV anchors today have trouble filling even the abbreviated time with relevant information. Especially when they can’t interview the fringe element members who often populate state delegations.
Both parties could take a page from Major League Baseball and pipe in raucous crowd noise so we have the illusion there’s a throng in attendance. But to liven things up just a bit more, it seems as if former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, will be speaking at the Democrats’ convention. Kasich, you’ll recall, ran against President Trump in 2016, and has not been happy about losing ever since. I wonder if that means Bernie Sanders will be joining the Republicans to say a few words. The Bern certainly can’t be pleased about how he’s been treated by his party’s powers-that-be over the past several years. Is it likely he’ll be given a time slot by the Rs? Would he bash Biden for beating him? Probably not on both counts. But, hey, it is 2020. Stranger things have happened this year. And it would boost the TV ratings.
©MMXX. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer