The Foregone Convention | The Nation


The Foregone Convention

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Security was tight; it was also stupid. The Secret Service had been slinking around town for six months before the first delegate arrived, working out details to the last link of the chain-link fence. Nevertheless, some rascal penetrated their defenses and stole a 5 ft. x 8 ft. picture of Lyndon Johnson from the convention hall rafters. It was replaced before the festivities started.

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Robert Sherrill
Robert Sherrill, a frequent and longtime contributor to The Nation, was formerly a reporter for the Washington Post. He...

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On the other hand, former Speaker John McCormack and Senators Symington and Magnuson were at various times turned away at the gate because they lacked sufficient identification for the security-happy guards. The Catholic churchman who gave the opening prayer was prevented from getting out of the hall until one of the convention officials came along and vouched for him. There was absolutely no logic to the distribution of passes. Fudgy "reporters" for "newspapers" like the underground Great Speckled Bird got into the hall with no trouble, while some first-rate newsmen had almost to fight their way in. Jimmy the Greek, the Las Vegas bookmaker, was all over the floor, wearing an official security badge. Several movie starlets flounced about with "media" passes. These conventions are set up for the prima donnas of television, not for straight newsmen.

The weather in Miami Beach was miserable weather to move about in, and moving great distances was the one thing you had to do, for the geography of the convention could benefit only one group: the taxi drivers. The Mississippi delegation was quartered a $6 ride from convention headquarters, and they weren't the most remote delegation.

Hippies and Yippies and Zippies were an important part of 1968 Democratic Convention history; they were of no significance in Miami Beach. In fact, far from being a "threat" to the community's peace of mind, the street people were even duller than the convention, for the obvious reason that they had little reason to be there doing their thing. The cops weren't beating them; the politicians weren't sneering at them; the candidate closest to their hearts was inside winning the nomination. Having no cause at the moment, the street people are willing to settle for publicity, Once I saw them gather at a locked gate, shaking it and cussing the troopers on the other side. That was futile, so they began shouting "where's the media?" A moment later a TV truck moved slowly up the street and the young people turned happily and trotted toward it, waving.

The leaders of the political youth cult have become as embarrassing as over-the-hill actors. Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were always available for interviews, and they always said the same thing, making jokes about covering the convention for Mad magazine and Popular Mechanics. At the 1968 convention they were spending their time in splendid protest against Mayor Daley's cops; this time they could be found in the Poodle Lounge and the Boom-Boom room of the Fountainebleau.

People used to think that national conventions were wasted time because they were dominated by political bosses. Now the bosses are gone and they are still wasted time. Last May, the Gallup poll asked: "It has been suggested that Presidential candidates be chosen by the voters in a nationwide primary election, instead of by political party conventions, as at present. Would you favor or oppose this?" Some 72 per cent of the general public said they did favor it.

The dealers who rented 1,200 automobiles to the Miami Beach conventioneers would be unhappy, and so would the hotel landlords who gouged the 50,000 persons officially connected with the 1972 Democratic Convention. But the New Politics is supposed to move this country away from its commercially-based mediocrity, and the national convention seems like one hell of a great place to begin.

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