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by Larry Lingle
Real Work Is Behind The
National political conventions invariably recall, for me, a nostalgic recall
of hot summer days beside a radio blaring
the thunderous declamations of
political correctness and the far more
interesting roll call of states as delegates voted on substantive issues and,
finally, on their choice of standard
bearer in the coming November crusade
for the soul of America.
I recall the thundering party-line sermon of Alban V. Barkley in 1948 which
single-handedly gained him the vice
presidential nod. Now such decisions
are singularly decided by an already
chosen top of the ticket before the first
sitting of delegates. Suspense and
drama once highlighted our national
political gatherings. In 1924, it took
102 ballots for the Democrats to select
their ultimate loser, John W. Davis—he
with the support of the Ku KIux Klan.
And in 1956, the destined loser—but
always a winner in my heart—Adlai E.
Stevenson left it to the convention to
determine his running mate. The ultimate winner was his chief rival with the
unenviable monocle, Estes Kef-
auver ( I had to resort to David McCul-
lough's "Truman" to revisit the spelling on that one).
While in hindsight Franklin D. Roosevelt seemed indestructible, winning
four presidential elections from a
wheelchair, he only gained that first crucial nod after several ballots when William Randolph Hearst, of newspaper
and Marion Davies fame, switched his
support. And while Dwight David Eisenhower, having conquered Europe,
seemed a likely nominee, it was actually
a close call in 1952 over a senior senator, much in the mold of a Bob Dole, Robert
A. Taft of Ohio. Taft, like Dole was pursuing his third attempt at the nomination.
All that high drama and suspense vanished from our political scene with the
advent and popularity of the state primaries. And as states now vie for the earliest slots the decision is settled before
many ofthe later primaries. Whereas the
motivation for the primaries was a distaste ofthe smoke-filled corridors ofthe
conventions where a small number of
party leaders made the decisions, now
only a few hundred thousand voters
preclude any change in the script.
Speaking of scripts, not even a Hollywood blockbuster is as well orchestrated as a political convention. While
it was a minor scandal when reporters
found the Republican script, minute by
minute, for their 1972 convention, now
it is a given. Even the unruly Democrats
have accepted this restraint, a party which
Will Rogers endearingly referred to
when he remarked "that I don't belong to
any organized party, I'm a Democrat."
So the story in San Diego this week, as will
be the case in Chicago later, is already
written. The smoke and mirrors of controversy which was to have been the platform was relegated to obscurity during
the first afternoon session on Monday.
After all, even Dole had remarked to a San
Diego newspaper that he had not read the^
platform. Most political platfor i^B
tend to be ignored during the campaign:
this is perhaps a first when the "presumptive" nominee turns his back on
the supposed party principles before
the first gavel has fallen.
While it appears everything about the
convention is geared for television,
nothing could be further from the truth.
For behind those well-rehearsed
speeches and choreographed demonstrations the real work of the delegates
is going on in sundry parties and gatherings, bankrolled like never before by
corporations vying for political
But wait, we have election reform; corporations cannot donate to politic^^A
campaigns. And, besides, there are doi^
lar limits on all contributions. Nye,
nye, friends. The scare of Watergate is
forgotten—after all, politicians of
all people know that voters have short
memories—they rely on this. The two
words now are "soft money." Friendly
regulators and compliant judges have
ruled that all limits apply only to politicians themselves. Anyone can give all
they want to parties and satellite committees which promote "ideas," not
candidates. So, folks, you can promote
the Republican Party and the Democratic Party nationally without promoting Dole or Bill Clinton. Yeah, like I
can advocate same-sex marriage without backing gay rights.
The television network which captured by brief attention Monday night
caught a glimpse of some of the high-power
parties and corporate jets (Colin Powell arriving on a drug company plane) but
.GOP security did its best to block such
shots. After this passing shot, even the
networks seemed to lose interest in this
real story behind the convention.
Only the business-minded Wall Street
Journal seemed interested in the party
thrown by the Securities Industry
Association for House Banking Committee Chairperson James Leach of
Iowa, or the Union Pacific feast for House
Transportation Committee Chairperson Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania.
The roll call goes on. For $100,000 you can
actually sit down with Dole and Jack Kemp
right after their "nominations" on
Wednesday. Oh, yeah, you also get a
photo op with the happy pair. ^
Ifyou want to attend the gala for the candl^
dates after their acceptance speeches,
don't line up at the ticket office, as if there
was one, but call the offices of the Association of Wholesale Distributors in
Washington. While he is keeping a low
profile during this convention, you
can have lunch with Speaker ofthe House
Newt Gingrich courtesy of General
Motors. And, as if anyone is eager to party
down with Haley Barbour, the GOP chair,
you can attend a "Melee with Haley"
through the good graces of Philip Morris,
Miller Seagram and Coca-Cola. After ail,
it looks as if Haley is fond of all four. I can
hardly wait for Chicago where Clinton's
New Democrats have learned the financial virtues of corporate sharing. ^*
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