DENVER—It's national security night here at the Democratic Convention. As we've sat here in the Pepsi Center (if you're facing the podium, we're behind and to the right, giving us an obscured view of the back left quarter of the speaker's head), various Democratic senators and ex-senators—Jack Reed, Evan Bayh, Tom Daschle, etc.—have been trotted out to explain why John McCain's America would be dangerous, while the United States of Obama would be a shining beacon of security and freedom.
As each man spoke, their amplified voice was not quite matched by the hum of conversation as delegates chatted on the floor. And it made me wonder: Do we really need conventions?
We've got a pretty good debate going on over in the current "Two Takes" on whether these gatherings are still necessary. Conventions have become little more than prolonged, staged, prime-time infomercials for the parties. And maybe that's fine. The reason I don't trust polls before, oh, the end of next week, is that voters aren't yet engaged. A few of us hard-cases have been following the twists and turns of this election since Bush won Ohio four years ago. But most people are aware that the campaign has been going on for months but the conventions are where they start to engage.
So fine, maybe the infomercials serve a theoretical purpose.
If only people would pay attention. Some number pay attention here in the hall—the murmur of floor chatter is sporadically drowned out by the cheers from elsewhere in the crowd.
But how many people are watching at home? I don't have access to the cable nets here, but can see Fox News playing on someone's screen a couple of rows up and they haven't been broadcasting the B-list speakers, which is to say those not named Clinton, Obama, or Biden. I doubt CNN or MSNBC is doing any different. (I got a chuckle when I looked up to see Michael Dukakis chatting away on Fox News while John Kerry was addressing the convention—one uninspiring Massachusetts former Democratic nominee trumping another.)
So what's left? C-SPAN? I'm guessing the folks who watch gavel-to-gavel on C-SPAN don't fall into the just-getting-engaged-in-the-election category.
Could we, I don't know, just do this in one night? Get all the A-Listers back to back?
The conventions have become infomercials that no one really watches. But hey—the parties are still great fun.