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The Democratic National Convention opened officially Monday in Denver, the first of two back-to-back gatherings of the nation’s political leaders with the usual fanfare by the celebrating delegates and dashes of cynicism by the heads talking to each other on TV.
Republicans will begin their four-day national convention Monday in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and we can expect the same pomp and ceremony quickly dampened by the gavel-to-gavel babble of the same pundits.
The television networks have reduced their coverage in recent years to an hour a night. They should be ashamed to shun the ultimate in reality TV. Only on cable and computer video streams can anyone interested follow all the developments and political speeches. And most of the commentary is, as Monday night demonstrated, about what was not being said rather than what was happening.
That’s because, unfortunately, too many people today, especially the talking heads, don’t understand what really happens at the quadrennial Republican and Democratic meetings.
True, today the conventions merely affirm the parties’ presidential nominees determined by state primary elections and caucuses during the first half of the year. The delegates endorse their candidates’ choice of running mate.
On a macro level, that’s all the TV networks care about — the big story. And if there are no fights because the voters already have spoken, the ratings-dependent networks are disappointed.
But on a micro level, what most of the thousands of media representatives are there to write about and broadcast, takes place outside the convention halls, behind the scenes, beyond camera range in hospitality suites, delegate rump sessions and formal state caucuses.
The conventions themselves provide opportunities for the candidates to demonstrate their abilities to organize the huge gatherings of diverse party members, to present their own qualifications and goals, and to attempt to exit the week crafting unity out of dissension. Both the Democrats’ Barack Obama and the Republicans’ John McCain have their problems to resolve — Obama with supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton and McCain with conservatives in his party.
A candidate for president who can’t manage a political convention and unify his own party behind a common goal surely will never be able to lead the diverse populations and interests of this country.
National Republican and Democratic party conventions bring together, in one place for each party, political leaders from thousands of communities across the country, business leaders and dedicated volunteers from many walks walk of life.
The sessions are where new leaders gain exposure and old guards relax their grip; where new political careers gain momentum and the weary fall behind. They are where ideas are exchanged between city, county, and state leaders and their counterparts from other parts of the country. They are where each party determines what it will stand for the next four years. The conventions are where voters get their best chance to get to know their candidates and to learn about their goals. And where campaign workers draw their inspiration and motivation to devote the long hours working up to Election Day.
The national conventions are where we in the United States do what other countries attempt in secret, or by overthrowing regimes. American political conventions are not neat, they often are raucous and combative.
But despite changes in focus over the years, the national conventions remain a critical step in the process of selecting a national leader. They are the Super Bowls of American politics, the World Series, the Stanley Cups.
They help to prepare the candidates, the parties, the nation for the final leg of the presidential election campaign that will begin immediately when the Democratic National Convention ends this week in Denver and the Republicans finish their convention next week in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board, R. Chris Ordway, Warren Wheat, Sarah Reddoch, Jeff D'Alessio, Holly Tabor, Michelle McGuffin and Kendra Stewart.