Progressive Revival

In the interest of full disclosure, as they say, I will admit my collusion with showmanship at the very beginning of this article: The fact is that I watched the opening night of the Democratic Convention from 6:00pm to midnight.

But I’m not sure what I saw or what it had to do with whether or not a person should vote for a Democratic candidate rather than a Republican candidate this year.


I’m a news freak, however, so I plan to watch the Republic Convention next week, too. The problem is that I”m not sure why I”m watching either of them.


“The modern convention,” as they are now being called leads me to wonder whether or not we really have conventions at all anymore. AT least in the conventional sense of the term. If urgent national business is being done there, we-the-people are neither seeing it nor being told about it.  Worse, the business that used to be done there-the nomination of a party candidate for the office of President of the United States of America-has been done long ago and without benefit of convention. If it weren’t for Hillary Clinton’s insistence on the traditional roll call vote, the whole reality of the electoral dimensions of the campaign would be forever lost to history. Let alone rethought and/or reconfirmed.


The obscure little task of nomination was done long ago on street corners and town halls from one end of the United States to another. And when that didn’t work, it was done by telephone and behind closed doors as ‘superdelegates’ were pressured to hasten to vote before the election was actually over.


Finally, the nomination process was completed when party officials agreed before the convention to admit to the convention in full force the delegates from Florida and Michigan whose votes they had refused to count in the primary.  


So what are they doing in Denver? And why?


Are they really having a ‘convention,’ in the traditional sense of the word. Or are they having a cheerleading competition? And will we only know who won it when the final votes are counted in November. If, of course, they can be correctly counted, thanks to the ten-year old program error in election machines that has finally been admitted by officials of the company that makes them, Premier Election Solutions, once Diebold, Inc.


In the meantime, I heard a lot last night about Barack Obama’s family life and the basic human aspirations common at least to the Democratic Party’s voting public but not a word about the kangaroo court trials going on at Guantanamo Bay or what this party intends to do about them or alternative energy plans or universal medical insurance.


As we watched main stage entertainment and panels of journalists do “vox pop” talk in four dialects-conservative, liberal, independent and undecided-not a resolution was passed or a question raised to distract the viewing public from the scene of hoopla by the exercise of democracy.


The first full day of the event will be a panoply of over 60 speeches, they tell us, as delegates sweep through the hall like schools of state fish. Given the usual commentary that overrides the days, everyone is simply passing time until the speech they’re all waiting for begins: the prime time presentation of Hillary Clinton, the candidate who won the popular vote but did not win the nomination. Go figure.


In the meantime, while the cheerleading practice goes on inside, Denver outside looks like a city under siege. Armed police stand in tight bands ready to do battle with citizens who would like to be part of what isn’t going on.


In this highly touted technological world of ours, when major political news is being sent to wake people up at 3:00 am, you’d think we could do all of it some other way.


So why don’t we?


Well, in the first place, I suppose we face the major capitalist answer: The gathering of the faithful is a money tree for the cities that win the lottery to host the convention. The Democratic convention alone was budgeted at $40 million, then overran that by at least $10 million and will cost, some say, as much as a billion before it’s over.


Or, in the second place,  maybe it’s because they really are all more celebrities than they are civil servants and this is Oscar Night on CNN.


From where I stand, there is no doubt that we are about to be treated to two weeks of political gala-if anybody out there in voting land is really watching during the last week of summer vacation. All I know is that at least 20,000 delegates- to-nothing plus the 20,000 others expected in tandem will leave one big carbon footprint. Maybe that should be on the agenda. If there is an agenda. 

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