I have an election year request, nay, plea for the two major political parties this time around. For the sake everything that’s sacred about this country, I beg you: skip the conventions. There’s still time to stop this. Let’s get ahead of this problem before it gets out of hand. The reservations can still be canceled. There’s still time to refund airfare.
I’m not even asking this just for myself. This is for the good of the country. We’re in the worst economic straits most people living can remember. Yet, the city of Charlotte, N.C. expects to spend at least $50 million just for the police force to cover the Democratic National Convention scheduled for the first week of September, according to the Charlotte Observer. Is there nothing else we could use $50 million for right now?
I could even handle the meaningless televised support meetings these political conventions have become if something were actually being decided at the end of the exercise. But it’s been decades since either party went into the convention with anything but dead certainty about their candidate of choice. The last time this happened for the either party was in 1980 at the Democratic National Convention in New York City when Sen. Ted Kennedy tried unsuccessfully to release delegates from their voting commitments to President Jimmy Carter. This election cycle, barring some unforeseen political disaster, of course the Democrats are going to rally around incumbent President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. And the question of a running mate is the only variable left unanswered before the Republicans descend upon Tampa, Fla. en masse during the last week of August to anoint Mitt Romney as their man.
The malaise surrounding national political rallies in this country became the norm for both parties after the disastrous 1968 Democratic National Convention. Not only were Dan Rather and Mike Wallace beaten senseless inside the International Amphitheatre, but outside the streets of Chicago ran red with the blood of both law enforcement and Yippies alike. Subsequently, the 1972 Republican National Convention set a new standard for the awfulness that has stood lo these 40 years later. It was at that time the very idea of the convention itself became commercial behemoth we suffer through today.
So, in essence, these are just pep rallies. And I hate pep rallies. I remember disliking pep rallies of any kind as soon as I knew what they were. When I was in junior high school they would always wait until the end of the day to announce them. They knew people would try to scatter through the bushes as soon as they caught wind of what was about to go down. I was one of those people. I quickly discovered that there was no escape. As we were led by our teachers from our classrooms to the gymnasium, I found through trial and error all the doors along the hallways were locked from the outside. Time and again I had to just sit there while the rest of the school exploded in forced merriment. I silently vowed I would never suffer through another pep rally as long as I lived. Later on I became a politically-aware adult and those dreams were dashed on schedule every four years.
But in reality, no one is going to listen to reason here because politics now follows the cadence of a never-ending sporting event. Once again I feel as if I’m back in junior high school. It’s almost as if I can hear the voice come over the loudspeaker telling us to file out of our classrooms. Oh, and all the doors are locked from the outside.
• Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached via email at email@example.com.