The Foregone Convention
The McGovern platform is sensible and humane, but hardly revolutionary. It's the kind of platform that unhappy political hacks say they "can live with." It calls for the abolition of the death penalty, but the Supreme Court has already taken that step; it demands controls that would prevent the "improper use of handguns," but many moderates like Mayor Lindsay are convinced from experience that nothing short of an outright ban on handguns will do; it demands a "substantial" cut in defense spending, but that is a waffling word that even Humphrey and Muskie would probably have been happy to run with.
Blacks have now been thoroughly baptized into party politics. In an effort to deprive McGovern of a first-ballot nomination, some of the Humphrey blacks, among them Charles Evers of Mississippi, proposed with a straight face that all candidates release their committed black supporters so that they could vote in a bloc for Rep. Shirley Chisholm. It was all presented under the guise of "black pride," but the idea was to weaken McGovern's hand. Few blacks fell for it. Of the 3,085 delegates, 454 were blacks. That is 15 per cent of the total, as compared to 5.5 per cent in 1968. Mrs. Chisholm polled 151.95 votes.
This was the first reform convention, built around age, sex and race quotas, and it did have at least a kind of freshness. But except for the question of the Vice Presidency, everything was wrapped up before the first session was called to order. The wrapping may have been done in a fashion far superior to that of the old backroom bosses' era, but it was no less wrapped.
All the fight had gone out of Muskie and Humphrey before they got here. Their headquarters had the liveliness of a clearance sale--a last, hysterical flurry. As for Wallace, it was clear from the beginning that he had come to town with no higher ambitions than to display his physical courage by delivering one more shopping-center speech. One of the finest things about this convention was that the delegates did not allow his wheelchair to excite them into an emotional show of support.
Actually nothing happened in Miami Beach that changed in the slightest the course of Democratic Presidential politics as it was already proceeding--nothing, that is, except the resolving of the fight over the California delegation, which was a voting issue to begin with.
As soon as McGovern won back on Monday the 151 California seats which the credentials committee had taken from him a few days earlier, his nomination was assured. Even the networks--which had sunk millions of dollars into selling this show--had trouble pretending that Humphrey, much less Muskie, came to Miami Beach with a chance of pulling a coup.
Conventions have a way of making nice people appear silly through no fault of their own. Although presumably soliciting support is what the event is supposed to be about, just about anybody (but The Top Four) who actually went around seriously recruiting votes for anything was looked upon as a kind of clown. Fellows like Hodding Carter III and Sen. Mike Gravel--"candidates" for the Vice Presidential nomination--were somehow plunked into the same category with Dean Templeton, who was running as a right-wing candidate for President on the promise to build a bridge from Alaska to Russia. Or at least that was the attitude until the last evening, when the delegates showed some of their previously suppressed independence by giving a solid 407 votes for Vice President to that amazing woman from Texas, Sissy Farenthold, who had been seeking votes for less than a day.