Friday, July 16, 2004

C-Minus eight days

The great difference between the United States and the rest of the world is that each and every time we have an election, we have to start from scratch.

In Great Britain for example, they have the nominees all ready sometimes years before an election. Tony Blair was nominated for Prime Minister at least two years before he won that office. In France Jaques Chirac was his party’s presidential nominee for every election going back to the , get this, 1970s. No primaries there.

But here we start from scratch. President Bush, even with no opposition at all, had to go through the primary system. He received 7,838,334 votes or 98.1% of the total cast.
You probably didn’t know that. Because everybody knew Bush was going to run unopposed, so who cares?

But that’s the system. It dates back to 1971, when George McGovern led a commission to make sure there wouldn’t be any smoke-filled rooms where a nominee would be chosen by a few bigwigs like in days of yore.

In days of yore, political parties were more like social clubs, and members would hang out together and plot local or statewide conquest. The county and state clubs would get together in conventions and decide who would win that free trip to the national confab. If one was loyal and had the right connections one would get to go. Yeah, there were primaries back then, but for the most part there were beauty contests and some, like West Virginia in 1960, could be easily stolen.

The real process of nomination would take place at the conventions.

Starting in 1972, the people, in the primaries, actually chose the nominees, and, since 1976, when President Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were essentially tied, no convention has convened with the nominee’s identity still in doubt. (Carter was so unpopular in 1980 that they tried to unseat him, but it was waaaaay too late).

In the years since 1980, Political conventions have morphed from chaotic deliberative bodies to glorified trade shows, with dealers rooms and everything.

Boston is going to be my fifth one of these [and the first one where I didn’t have to find a way to sneak in.] Nothing unplanned is going to happen and that’s why the media is going to do it’s best to ignore the proceedings.

Yeah, there was a short dust-up about whether or not Hillery Clinton was going to speak, but it doesn’t matter, what matters is a four-day infomercial and the first prime-time speech by John Kerry covered live by all media.

But what about the people who actually GO there? What exactly are they going to be doing now that there’s nothing to decide? That’s what we’re going to explore in the next few weeks

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