The thing you learn about clichés when you get to be my advanced aged is that many of them actually become clichés because they are true. The, um, conventional wisdom about political conventions is that they are really media conventions and that they are devoid of actual news. These are both true. Fifteen thousand journalists and 5,000 delegates, each one of whom has zero information that actually matters with regard to the real news, which is what is going to happen at this convention that is actually going to surprise people.
It’s up to the people running it to ensure that the answer to that question is “nothing.” But 15,000 journalists, and literally countless bloggers, need something to occupy their time, and preferably it will be a story with both actual sources and a story line of some relevance to the larger narrative. Reporters from mid-sized and small newspapers take up their time following their delegates to various receptions and discussing issues of interest to their communities. There is not much real news in these, though. It is the political convention of political conventions to pretend that political platforms matter. They don’t. They are merely a way to buy off people who care deeply about issues, but can be bought off with the right language in political platforms. It’s hard to imagine any President telling his advisers to follow a particular policy because of the language in his party’s platform. This doesn’t work for the poohbahs who are here to relive the good old days when conventions, like the press, really mattered.
So what is to be done? Well, first there is the business of scrambling for invites to the best parties. This can be very time-consuming. Second, there is the business of getting lost and asking directions. Then there is the getting drunk and requisite sleeping it off. The rest of time is spent speculating in the company of one’s colleagues on the Big Issues of the coming campaign.
In my own travels–and travails–of getting lost and drunk and the like, the only issue that keeps coming up is this “Hillary question.” Personally, I think that people who are “still angry” about Hillary Clinton and are considering “withholding their support” from Obama are moral and political idiots in exactly the same vein as those people who voted for Ralph Nader in swing states in 2000 were. More so, actually. The Democrats had a primary, and Obama won it fair and square. He didn’t cheat. He didn’t do any of the things that Hillary Clinton diehards are are so angry about. He just won and she lost. That’s how these things are supposed to work.
These Hillary diehards act as if they are making some sort of point, but the only point they are making is that they would prefer to see John McCain be President–and run a government that is opposed to everything they say they favor (here’s where the Nader comparison comes in) because they think politics is a form of therapy rather than a matter of compromise, coalition and, ultimately, victorious combination.
If you talk to one of these people for more than two minutes, they immediately cease to make any sense. But the press doesn’t talk to them for more than two minutes at a time because all they need is that one self-serving, conflict-building quote to give them what they need to support their big–and, right now, virtually only–story line. What’s more, the Obama people are under orders–quite understandably–not to anger these nut cases, because, sad to say, you can’t win an election without stupid people voting for you. So nobody says it aloud, but everyone says it privately. And that, rather than what you hear on your TVs all day, is the real news of this place, so far. And so the charade continues until we have some real news. In the meantime, I’m off to the HuffPo “Oasis” for a massage and a facial. Perhaps there’s a story there…