Saturday, March 29, 2008

Real Party Politics: Part 1

As a student of politics and American history, I personally look forward to a Democratic National Convention where the convention actually matters, that is, a party convention that chooses the the party's nominee. In the past few election cycles, neither party's convention has been especially interesting because neither party had enough depth to field more than one very strong candidate. When that happens, one candidate has the nomination locked up going into the convention, which then becomes anti-climactic window-dressing , as will be the case with this year's coronation of John McCain as heir to George W. Bush's throne - and to W's policies regarding the war in Iraq (stay forever, who cares?) and the economy (do nothing, rich people will be fine, and as for everybody else...wait, there IS anybody else?).

It has become cliche to say it, but whether you prefer Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama to be the final candidate, this year's Democratic field started with a strong group and now includes two possible nominees both of whom have galvanized the rank and file, brought new voters into the process, and made politics a passion for many people who never paid it much mind before. Two very powerful candidates with virtually equal measures of large support, neither of whom is going to nor should drop out of the race: when that's the situation, the fight goes to where it should: the party convention, when insiders (governors, senior party officials, former presidents and vice-presidents) and relative outsiders (most of the delegates) have to work together to select the nominee. They use all the tools of democractic politics: procedural maneuvers, ballots, discussions, speeches, surprise announcements, and, I am sure, a cigar or two. Politics as it should be.

(Newsweek actually covers the ins and outs well, with examples from both Republican and Democratic party conventions where conventions mattered.)


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