Magazine article The American Prospect

A Citizen's Guide to the Conventions

Magazine article The American Prospect

A Citizen's Guide to the Conventions

Article excerpt

There are really three conventions each for Democrats and for Republicans. The first is the prime-time convention watched on home TVs. Unfortunately for George, W. and for Al Gore, it's been shrinking for years. This time it s likely to attract fewer viewers than summer reruns of Washington Week in Review. NBC has decided to trim its entire coverage down to just two and a half hours for each party's convention. After all, who wants to watch the phony official beginnings of George W.'s and Al Gore's interminable presidential campaigns when you can watch a real dramatized president grapple with big issues on The West Wing?

The second convention involves the party faithful, occurring mostly on the convention floor. These are the fundamentalist Republicans and Democrats--the precinct captains, ward and county chairs, and local and state officials who are still doing grass-roots politics.

Most of the GOP's party faithful in Philadelphia will be small businessmen and women, Rotarians, born-again Christians, libertarians, right-to-lifers, and crew-cut 60-year-olds who liked Ike and yearned for Barry. They want taxes slashed, abortion banned, guns in every home, and the nation's defenses pumped way up. At the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, the party faithful will be school teachers, social workers, nurses, firefighters, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, and shaggy 60-year-olds who yearned for Adlai, Eugene, and George. Most want a higher minimum wage, a lot more money for schools, everyone in a union, and national health care.

They will have come to Philadelphia or to Los Angeles to ignite in themselves the passion that almost none now feels for the candidate their party will be nominating. They're also looking forward to seeing old friends, swapping war stories and gossip, making political deals, and partying. The party-faithful conventions are what's left of the life of the parties.

The third convention is for the fat cats--the people who have made huge soft money donations or rounded up 500 of their closest friends to give $1,000 each in hard money contributions, the political consultants who masterminded these fundraising campaigns, and the heads of major trade associations, giant corporations, and investment banks.

The fat-cat convention occurs in skyboxes with plexiglass windows through which participants can look down on the other two conventions, literally and figuratively. The fat-cat convention in Philadelphia will be almost identical to the fat-cat convention in Los Angeles two weeks later because most of those who attend the first will also attend the second. They've invested in both campaigns, diversifying their portfolios as any wise risk-managers would. …

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