pep rallies on anabolic steroids

Posted: July 29, 2016 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Man, the nominating conventions have come a long way from the smoky backroom deal-making days. Those old timey gatherings were ugly, contentious, and vicious. Negotiations were fierce private battles among political bosses and, for those paying attention, intrigue was high. But most Americans – and by “most” I mean everyone not physically at the convention – paid no attention. Communication channels were spotty and people remained largely ignorant of the proceedings. Then messy 1968 came along with its messy assassinations, messy riots, messy anti-war protestors, and messy Democratic National Convention. People were beaten on the streets of Chicago and Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a man who competed in zero primaries, was given the nomination. Suddenly, the whole world was watching.

Forty-eight years later the real political drama is mostly gone from the nominating conventions. They are now like high school pep rallies on anabolic steroids. Although each struck highly contrasting tones and messages over the past two weeks, both conventions had moments of outright hamminess that would have made Liberace proud or, if you prefer, Charlton Heston. They were orchestrated to build maximum excitement and support in anticipation of The Big Game with lots of loud cheering at precisely timed moments. Delegates vigorously pumped signs up and down to supplement whatever happened on stage. (Those sign making companies made huge profits! Huge!) The convention floors looked like a giant reciprocating engines with hundreds of pistons working haphazardly in concert. And, of course, continual flag waving demonstrated how really really really patriotic everyone was. The enormous spectacle of it all felt very much like competing reality shows. Seriously, have you ever seen so many balloons in one place?


The conventions also produced the party platforms, but pffft. They make for lousy television. The final versions are long (62 pages for the republicans, 55 for the democrats), dry, and read like corporate strategic plans. They outline the party’s vision for America and what they plan to do about achieving that vision if they stay (or get) in power. Unlike corporate strategic plans which primarily impact their stockholders and employees, these platforms impact everyone. They contain serious language in serious fonts. Legislators use them for guidance when making policy decisions. People in Congress vote yes or no in direct agreement with their party’s platform at least 75% of the time. But during the convention we don’t hear as much about these platforms as we should because, well, they make for lousy television.

However, speeches, be them great or cringe-worthy, make for good television. Given the sheer volume and wide-ranging credentials of the speakers we saw, this must be true. One of the most affecting speeches occurred last night. Khzir Khan, accompanied by his wife, spoke movingly of their son, Humayun. Humayun Khan was an Army Captain killed in action during the Iraq war. He was posthumously awarded a purple heart and bronze star. The Khans are American Muslims, so unsurprisingly Mr. Khan also took direct aim at Donald Trump. There was nothing subtle about his message, but it was highly effective because, despite all the obvious political calculations behind it, his emotions rang honest and true. If you were watching, it was difficult not to be moved by a father speaking about his son’s ultimate sacrifice for his country. And, unlike those pre-1968 days, all Americans could participate, at least peripherally. That is all Americans except those tuned into Fox’s convention coverage on The Kelly File.


Those Americans saw Megyn Kelly chat it up with Brit Hume before cutting to commercials. She returned with a “Breaking News” story in which FBI Director James Comey warned that battlefield success against ISIS would probably produce more terrorism is the West. Comey’s comments came the day before, but hey, the term “Breaking News” is soooo subjective. Finally, Megyn spoke with General John Allen about the expansion of ISIS and his role in the Obama administration. All of this while the Khans were onstage talking about their son, sacrifice, and patriotism. Okay, to be fair (and balanced) the Khans were not entirely absent from Fox’s broadcast. For about two minutes during the commercial break they were present in a small window on the right of the screen. They were muted, but they were present. The other seven minutes Mr. Khan spoke were completely absent. But thankfully, THANKFULLY, Fox’s full attention came back to the stage when Katy Perry bounced out and sang. If anyone can draw attention to a pep rally – regardless of team affiliation – it is Katy Perry.


and then Katy appeared

  1. Linda Vernon says:

    I didn’t watch any of it, but can you imagine how much hot air is in all those balloons? Gosh I would truly have love to have voted for Liberace and Charlton Heston!


    • John says:

      Not as much hot air than was in those buildings. And try as I might, I can’t think of a pithy campaign slogan for Liberace and Heston. I need to work on that!


  2. rangewriter says:

    Yup, I’d say you nailed it. I was fortunately in the mountains and offline during the Republican party. I was in town for the Dem’s party. There were some moving speeches, Khan’s undoubtedly the best of them, which I don’t believe was even broadcast live by the major news stations. I happened to catch it being streamed. I was struck by Mrs. Khan’s frozen demeanor throughout her husband’s moving speech. She looked like a woman still in the grips of grief, partly comatose to the hullabaloo her husband was involved in. I wonder if she even speaks English. Just because he does, doesn’t mean she does. And what does she care about this election. She’s already lost her most important treasure. BTW, I just ordered my own pocket sized US Constitution.
    The “entertainment” aspect of the convention sickened me. Pep rally, indeed.


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