International Writers Magazine:
Democrats Make Mile High Noise and History
are only two aims of achieving success at a major party's national
convention; define/redefine the candidate while skewering his opponent
and bridging any chasms widened by primary overzealousness, power
positioning, and/or the expected special interest harangues. This
week in Denver the Democrats rolled out their dramatically manipulated
showcase to bring the Obama brand in from the far-left, Commie-pinko,
radical-darkie wilderness, dogpile on the frightening glut of Republican
stupidity, and save November from the hordes of Clintonites frothing
at the collective mouth to implode the immediate future.
this multi-media flimflam was a success is purely in the eye of the
beholder. FOX NEWS continuously paraded out one stone-faced commentator
after the other to deride it as a sham, while MSNBC gushed like apple-cheeked
cheerleaders at the slightest utterance. The actual networks, cutting
in only for the final hour of coverage each night, unfurled what could
only be described as the look of annoyance for interrupting Celebrity
Slug Chewing for this banal absurdity.
And it's hard to blame any of them. Conventions have lost its luster
for this reporter, especially ones not attended or at least infiltrated
by some cheap mole in my employ. In fact, this is the first presidential
election in years wherein The Desk or its pale pre-comparisons would
not have any firsthand inside knowledge save for whatever minced across
our television screens in all its Hi-Def glory.
But what could best the actual drama of "true conventions"
like those in the early 20th century, sprayed unceremoniously with vicious
bullspit careening from the mouths of angry delegates who screamed mercilessly
through thick clouds of cigar smoke at union leaders and mafia thugs.
Oh where oh where are the fistfights and chain-beatings, or even hissy
fits by lifers like Ted Kennedy and Pat Buchanan or power-grabs by staunch
heavyweights like Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson; the real old-world
rough-and-ready politics that inspired this boy to borrow its addictions
for weekly fodder?
It is dead and gone now, tepidly replaced by the sounds of two-dimensional
revelry. These are no longer Conventions, but Coronations; a final bugle
cry over the ghosts of an ancient American battle heard beneath the
agonizing din of digitized chicanery. Merely echoes; sad echoes of once
potent political muscle whitewashed in a sea of queer sentiment.
Ah, but somewhere this week there was a place for those echoes in Madam
Shoo-In's "endorsement" speech, which roused the faithful
to conveniently forget her ideological and personal crippling of the
eventual Democratic nominee for six months of ugly campaigning. But
despite the obvious hypocrisy of the thing, Hillary Clinton did her
party proud, erecting a plethora of reasons why a "lesser-of-two-evils"
vote for Barack Obama beats the living snot out of another four years
of GOP madness.
It was sound reasoning, even by a jilted harpy in her element; signs
waving madly with her moniker one last time; written boldly and then
ripped from the clutches of apoplectic delegates to be replaced with
much more party-friendly UNITY signs.
All hail the neck-wrenching U-Turn of party diplomacy!
"This man is incapable of nothing but dooming us all!" to
"If you give a shit about what I was trying to do by openly mocking
your candidate, you had better cast vote for him!"
But the Clintons are nothing if not professionals, and they effectively
accomplished the second of the two convention goals, mending fences.
For his part, Big Bill pulled out one of the finest performances of
his ex-presidency. The tired pathos of his loose-cannon ramblings a
few months ago on the campaign trail was replaced by a stirring oration,
a greatest hits of the Clinton Repertoire, reminding us of his robotic
capacity to grandly hoist fury without peer. He was reborn in it. You
could see glimpses in how this slick southern grifter had once gained
the world's highest office. It was like watching the Elvis Comeback
Special in '68, when, for just a fleeting moment, an apparition of rebellious
boogie madness emerged from a dreary decade of bad movies and silly
Not even vice presidential nominee Joe Biden's pugilistic meandering
could douse the festivities. In a strange way, The Biden Bulldog approach
is an apt juxtaposition to the otherwise "above it all" Obama,
who needs to maintain his amiable exterior and let the cranky, old canine
attack, not unlike the squeaky clean grandfatherly Eisenhower standing
behind Dick Nixon's carnivorous snarls.
Biden was brought in to "connect" with the disgruntled Reagan
Democrats that Senator Rodham so deftly courted in the primaries, but
his ranking as third-most-liberal senator behind the candidate he joins,
along with his Catholic faith, only serves to further weigh down this
unlikely underdog ticket.
But it matters little now. Because after what transpired in the Coronation's
final evening, how can Barack Obama deign to be president? It will be
a step down to what he has become, this living symbol of the American
Dream, the struggle of those not "in the club" busting through
the invisible ceiling for a slice of the pie, a voice in the clamor,
a head to be counted. He is also by every account -- pro or con -- the
New Guy; new to the game, new to the gig, and new to past generations
of every imaginable failure.
If he were to lose, following the empirical pomp of his stadium triumph,
could you picture this man skulking back to the senate like John Kerry
or wandering around screaming about Global Warming like Al Gore? Perhaps
someone could find him another country to run, maybe a more progressive,
fun-loving, wackier country.
Even if he happens to win, still one of the great long shots in western
civilization, it will never eclipse the immensity of the night the purpose
and power of this improbable run stood before 80,000 manic and weeping
minions beneath a barrage of fireworks and confetti to accept a major
party's nomination for the presidency.
On the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream"
speech, the third generation removed announced, "I get it."
And this is the fundamental difference between the old guard and whatever
this Obama insanity represents. The vision of the dispossessed becoming
the reality of change; not only political or ideological change, but
unmitigated rubber-hitting-road change.
Those of my generation, Obama's generation, were given the breath and
length of the unprecedented opportunity to "get it". And although
tons of sky candy, blasting music, tearful tributes, and political theater
are filled with nothing but big noise and empty promise, none of it
adds up to the guy at the podium "getting it".
Now he only has sixty-odd days to convince an ultra-conservative, puritanical,
fear-addled nation that he "gets it".
But for three days what looked and sounded like "the same ol'-same
ol'" careened into the final fifty minutes as nothing we have ever
seen. And that is more than a show, bub, that's history.
*Meanwhile thunder has been stolen in the guise of a fishing n' hunting
housewife from Alaska....
© James Campion September 2008
Letter to Barack Obama
the chin up and the hands clean and we might survive this weird experiment
until mid-September with a puncher's chance
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