June 7, 2016

Conventions used to be fun

Sam Smith - It occurs to me that if boxing had been run the way the media and Hillary Clinton want to run the Democratic convention, Mohammad Ali would have demanded that many of his opponents drop out of their fight ahead of time because they clearly weren't going to win.

As someone who covered the 1956 Democratic convention as a college journalist and has enjoyed many since, the attempt to force Bernie Sanders out is another sign of a culture that cares only about power and not about what one does with it. Sanders may have lost the nomination but he clearly is winning the battle towards changing what the Democratic Party is all about. The large gap in the way millennials and older voters view this election is a strong indicator of a party on cusp of ending its pathetic record of recent decades.

This doesn't mean the aged caucus doesn't still have power - as the delegate count indicates. But it does mean that this power is, at best, temporary and the party and the media better get ready for a new definition of being a Democrat.

The effort to drive Sanders into silence is a sign of their desperation as is the false notion that Hillary Clinton politely dropped out of the 2008 race before the convention. Clinton actually didn't bail out until the roll call vote was already underway. And even though she released her delegates at that point, a paper ballot was still taken.

In fact, checking conventions back to 1956, I could only find three - two of which involved second termers - in which the game was not allowed to play happily out. This was one of the reasons people watched conventions; it was an expression of the variation within the party eventually coming to an at least somewhat happy conclusion.

For example, in 1956, Stevenson got 66% of the vote but there were eight other candidates in the race including Kentucky governor Happy Chandler and the Senate majority leader, Lyndon Johnson. Hershel Loveless got 2 votes when Kennedy won in 1960. Shirley Chisolm struck a blow for civil rights when McGovern won and she got all of 5%. Ron Dellums got three votes in 1980. Joe Biden one in 1984. Jesse Jackson got 1219 in 1988.

The idea that you had to cave early to the winner in those days would have been considered absurd. And it was one reason conventions were much more fun to watch on TV.

The moral for the media is to stop taking your history from Clinton campaign advisors and do your own research. Politics used to be a lot more fun and one reason was you didn't have give up until the votes were counted.

No comments: