Convention had a friendly tone

Political conventions weren’t always this friendly.

There were once shouting matches on the floor amongst delegates for all of America to see. There were smoke-filled rooms in which deals were struck in negotiating party platforms. And rarely was it known who the nominee of the party would be in advance of the convention.

If last week’s Democratic National Convention revealed anything, it’s that those days are gone.

Via a BGNews Press Pass and the Washington Center Seminar Program, I had the pleasure of having a front-row seat to a harmonious Democratic love-fest last week at the Fleet Center in Boston.

I wish I could tell you that what you saw on television (if you happened to be amongst the few young people who watched it) was an illusion and that things weren’t as happy as they seemed. But no, delegates were indeed dancing with one another in the aisles.

There were few platform disagreements and what little contention there was was hidden from television viewers.

All of the former Democratic presidential candidates and most of the few delegates they were able to win united behind the Kerry/Edwards ticket. One Texas delegate described it as a “happy family reunion.”

Robert Hoar, a delegate from New Jersey, said the convention was “like a political candy-land. Everything’s so happy with lights, cameras and our favorite politicians on the stage.”

A lot of these good feelings stemmed from the orders of Senator Kerry to have an upbeat message and to keep Bush-bashing to a minimum. But most of it can be attributed to the constant presence of television and other forms of media. Media outnumbered delegates by a ratio of 6 to 1 and the pressure was great to paint a picture in front of media outlets to show unanimous support for one candidate for the entire nation to see. But while things were happy inside the Fleet Center, there were some outside who didn’t see John Kerry as being a quality candidate for President. There were a couple dozen protesting the legalization of homosexual marriage and abortion.

But most of the protesters were voicing out against the war in Iraq and felt that Senator Kerry wasn’t taking a strong enough stance on the conflict.

One protester commented to me that “If Kerry were more like who he was in 1971, an activist and pacifist, he would have my vote in a second. He’s become a mellow version of Bush.”

However, dissention outside the Fleet Center was at a minimum with only a few hundred protesting. And the anger outside couldn’t stop the party raging inside.

Yet, despite the good times, some delegates were frustrated that the convention speakers weren’t going on the offensive against an incumbent President that they saw as being very vulnerable come November.

Colorado delegate T.J. Geiger said that “Bush misled us into war and bills an economy that pales in comparison to the Clinton economy as roaring. We should be going after that.”

Lisa Flores of Florida thought Kerry should have attempted to pin the label of “flip-flopper” on the President.

“He (Bush) campaigned in 2000 as a so-called compassionate conservative and then upon getting into office took a hard-right line on virtually every issue. If that’s not flip-flopping then I don’t know what is.”

But, alas, there was little discussion of the issues before the electorate and even less discussion of the Bush-record. With a complete absence of any real discussion of issues, everything very scripted, and no real decisions being made on political platforms, viewers may question what the purpose of a modern convention is.

Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware summed it up.

“It’s more about portraying an image of a candidate to the nation than it is about making any hard decisions about where the Democratic Party is going for the next four years.”