Conventions are far from perfect. Too much of their time is wasted on things parochial and elitist and just silly. Not much has changed since Bob Dole summed up the GOP event of 1980: "The introducers spoke longer than the speakers. And the speakers spoke too long."
But what else have we got? Self-consciously triumphant inaugurals, ponderous State of the Union speeches. Debates promise some spontaneity, but they're too narrow, focused only on four candidates.
The conventions are a political Olympics, democracy as spectator sport: Score the best efforts of mayors and governors and senators who might be president someday. Catch those candidates and insiders who claim to hate Washington and loathe politics openly reveling in the raucous, strapping national debate, whatever they prefer to call it. Watch regular folks still willing to turn out, in silly hats and buttons, to cheer for something they believe in.
Sure, it can feel predictable. But that's something to be grateful for — a sign that today's primaries are running fairly smoothly and the nation's many troubles are less devastating than the crises of the past.
Isn't that a good thing so long as it lasts?
After all, the political stage managers won't be able to corral the chaos outside or quiet rising voices within the hall if America faces another crisis as deep as the Depression, another war as despised as Vietnam, another moral test as big as civil rights.
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