What a Bore We're about to Hold Political Conventions Again. Why?

By Shribman, David M | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 26, 2012 | Go to article overview

What a Bore We're about to Hold Political Conventions Again. Why?


Shribman, David M, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


On Tuesday evening, the circus becomes a carnival. Two presidential nominees whose identities have been known for months, along with running mates whose names will be no mystery, already are streaming into Southern cities for sweet tea and the sweet serenades of the faithful.

We call it a national political convention. I call it a waste of time and money.

This of course is treason to my tribe, political writers who love these quadrennial assemblies. And in truth, I enjoyed them in my years as a political correspondent, a time when the phrase "social media" meant the opening-night press party, which, by the way, usually was full of twits, not tweets.

But not one decision of consequence was made in the 11 conventions I covered, though plenty of good meals were consumed, especially in Chicago, host to 26 of them, including Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose convention 100 years ago this month. My guess is that the same will occur in Tampa this week, where massive quantities of the regional classic Sopa de Garbanzo will be gulped down.

But before I launch into my quadrennial ritual, arguing that the conventional convention needs to be overhauled if not junked, let me concede that modern conventions did have some important moments, though they were mostly speeches by people who were not, not yet, or no longer candidates for president.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's 1980 vow that "the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die" remains one of the great rallying cries of liberalism. Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's 1984 exhortation that America was more a "Tale of Two Cities" than a "Shining City on a Hill" is an expression of conscience that haunts us still. Barack Obama's 2004 statement that "there's not a liberal America and a conservative America" helped catapult him to the presidency. And Gov. Sarah Palin's 2008 trumpet summons to conservatism still echoes across the country.

But these are just a few moments -- in truth, just a few sentences --in a cascade of words and showmanship that these events produce every political cycle. That's not counting Barry Goldwater's "Extremism in the defense of liberty" remark in 1964, which pretty much ended his campaign right there in San Francisco's old Cow Palace.

The original purpose of conventions was to nominate a president, construct a platform, provide a forum for the faithful to meet, exchange views and send the party nominee off to the general election on an emotional and rhetorical high.

But increasingly these events have become television shows, and not particularly riveting ones. Because this year's nominees are especially accomplished control freaks, don't expect any spontaneity -- and (caveat emptor) be suspicious that any outburst of spontaneity you see on the platform is itself scripted. Yes, they are that cynical.

I'm trying to think of an actual moment of suspense at a modern political convention, and I've come up with only two, both momentous in 1980 but barely historical asterisks today: Would Ronald Reagan invite former President Gerald R. Ford to join him on the GOP ticket as kind of a co-president? Would, a few weeks later, Ted Kennedy, defeated in his challenge of a sitting president, hold his hand aloft with President Jimmy Carter after the latter's acceptance speech? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What a Bore We're about to Hold Political Conventions Again. Why?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.