On the Occasion of Not Watching the 2020 Democrat Convention
In July of 1976, I attended the Democratic National Convention in New York City, at which Jimmy Carter was nominated. For me, it was a dream come true. I was at a national political convention holding a valid press credential, taking pictures, going to briefings, wandering around on the convention floor, bumping into Dan Rather, and watching democratic process of choosing the next leader of the free world. It was heaven. I had aspired to do this since I was 7. Really.
I remember watching Eisenhower's first convention in 1952. My grandmother thought Republicans were an invention of the Devil and bad for "the workers," and she told me so. So, I didn't Like Ike, or at least I thought I didn't. And I didn't like him when I was 11, either, in 1956, when I made myself an ADLAI button out of cardboard and scotch tape and watched both of those those conventions avidly from morning to night, dreaming about being there. I was drawn in by the joy — smiling, happy people as far as the eye could see in funny hats, wearing regalia for their favorites, the roll call of the states with their different accents and ideas — all there picking their choice for the president in this wild, noisy circus. It was magical.
More joy following in 1960 as a black and white TV brought me the vision of JFK going over the top in San Fran. The other guys held their convention in Chicago, so my best friend and I sweltered on a CTA bus for an hour to try to see Nixon nominated to run against JFK. We couldn't get in, but no matter. We got to see the hoi polloi of the Republican Party going to and fro with buttons and campaign signs. It was only Republicans, but it was the best opportunity to see things in person. After all, JFK had to run against someone, didn't he? And these people were happy to be doing this also.
And so it came to pass that I was in NY in 1976 with press credentials, which got me on the floor of the convention, standing with the Georgia delegation at the precise moment that Jimmy Carter became the Democratic nominee. It was a transformative celebration. People in that delegation were crying and hugging, and the man standing next to me exclaimed as Carter was nominated, "Oh, my God, the Civil War is finally over!" In his mind, in this moment, in this place, there was reconciliation, and Georgia was once again part of the Union. It affirmed my childhood belief that there was magic in these spectacles.
I have thought about that moment a great deal in recent days as I watch what appears to be the unfolding of a new civil war in America. Alas, that joyful Democrat's proclamation in 1976 was premature. The Civil War is not over. Jumping in and out of the TV broadcast of what passes for a political convention, it seems there are forces in this country that do not want the Civil War to be over. Reconciliation and cohesion are not on their minds. There is no magic in this endeavor — only outrage and resentment.
This is not a Democratic Convention, but rather a convention of persons calling themselves Democrats. There is no Democratic Party because there is nothing democratic about it in the most important sense of the word. It is the antithesis of democracy. They prattle about unity, but what each of the speakers really wants is obedience to the agenda of whatever unhappy soul is speaking at the moment.
They claim to unite in their singular vitriol and hatred of Donald Trump, but it is really their hatred of one another and us who do not obey that compels them. Just listen to them canceling us and each other out for failure to embrace one another's orthodoxies.
Unhappy and unsmiling as they recite their recorded messages, it is clear that there is nothing that would make them less angry and more happy — even winning the presidency won't do that. They want control, and they want power. What they will do with power if they get it is not a pleasant prospect.
This pantheon of disconnected grievance is not the convention of a political party engaged in the sacred and privileged task of trying to nominate a leader. This is certainly not the conventions — Republican or Democrat(ic) — that I remember, with people wearing funny hats, cheering, embracing, contending, and eventually leaving with a newfound purpose. Those events were filled with gravitas and joyful moments for the parties and America. The convention of old was a happy and holy endeavor, a civil religious ceremony of anointing the standard-bearer, and it was filled at the end with the joy of accomplishment. These four nights have been a grudge match. Truthfully, it wouldn't be any more fun to watch if it were in person in Milwaukee.
In truth, this is not a convention. It is a tribute to our current Orwellian language that it is even called a convention. No one has convened. Everyone on screen looks as if he is in a hospital on a solitary death watch or maybe already at the funeral. If these people win in November, the lights will go off in the heart of America, and we will never laugh again. Why in the world would we want to watch that?
So, instead of watching this gloomy group, I have spent the evening watching other things of interest and looking at Twitter and Facebook occasionally to see if anything of moment has happened. Nothing has. No surprises. No soaring rhetoric. Not a new or novel idea from anyone.
I do not know if the Republican convention week is going to be any better. I have to hope the optimism, humor, energy, and just plain stagecraft of the president is going to make the Republican stab at this a bit better. Who knows? It's a tough medium. I think there is hope because I see the president cruising around the country, cracking jokes, throwing jibes at the Democrats, giving hour-long speeches in 114-degree heat, and doing a little dance step at the end. He's all in on the fight, and he is happy to be in it. The Democrats are on a death march, and they don't know what happy is.
I've decided I have enough things to be unhappy about this 2020. The dour Dems are just no fun. I will wait for the president's next speech. At least he makes me laugh, and he reminds me of a time when I thought politics was the sacred duty of Americans working to fulfill our ideals in a vibrant and happily contentious democratic republic.
After all, issues aside, who wants to go on a death march?