Hooray! Hooray! At this moment there is every expectation that the country’s voters and political aficionados are going to be presented with an old-fashioned open political convention.
The upcoming early primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina seem to be headed for a division of spoils among the hardy crew running for the Republican nomination.
We said “open”’ not, as some of the less historical minded pundits have said, “a brokered convention” To broker a convention – that is for a few political leaders deciding the candidate in a smokefilled backroom – requires their command of “machines”, carefully honed protocoled organizations that can deliver large blocs of votes. Obviously, in these days of digitalization of our society and social media, there is no political mavim however shrewd who can command that kind of following. Rham Emanuel’s difficulties in Chicago, once the home of one of the most formidable Democratic Party machines, shows just how far we have come from the old days. It is a long time since the Christmas turkey could buy a vote!
Instead we have a wild and wooly wrestling match between a large number of candidates. They may be further culled as we get further along into the presidential season. But every indication is that, given their appeals to different arguments in the current political debate, their own individual characteristics, and their ability to continue to tap money for their promotion, we will still end up at convention time with several candidates.
And for us, that would be a great thing. Some of us are old enough to remember when “the rollcall of the states” was just that. It was announcing, sometimes in vote after vote, how individual state delegations – sometimes winner take all, but often themselves divided among the candidates – were tallied. Sometmes, of course, the drama would reach high exhilaration with the outcome of a rollcall in doubt until it was completed. And in the worst [or the best in terms of drama] cases, the rollcalls would go on and on into the exhausting wee hours of a morning.
Returning that kind of excitement, and incidentally debate over issues, to the whole electoral process will be a marvelous thing. For our young people, too blasé about the political process to the extent that large numbers of them do not take part, it will present a new and different aspect of what politics can be. Some would argue, of course, that such shenanigans are not serious, should not be a part of electing the most important political in the world, the president of the United States. We don’t agree. Enjoying a political process, even if it is for the wrong reasons, is to be welcomed, especially since it contributes to the discussion of policy and future government strategies.
There is, of course, a hidden danger. That is that artful candidates may with the help of a corrupt and partisan media swing the vote on the floor with enormous stage effects. The most famous case of that happening was in the 1940 Republican convention when a virtually unknown utilities executive, Wall Street’s GOP candidate, but an enormously attractive young man and executive, organized the balcony in Philadelphia. He won the nomination against the majority of delegates of an older and for experienced candidate, Ohio’s Robert Taft, scion of an important 19th century political family.
Wilkie’s theatricals were to establish a new current in American political life, one that perhaps reached its apex with the campaigns and elections of the Kennedy brothers a couple of generations later. But, a great benefit in the end, Wilkie, who after his defeat by third-termer Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, became a respected public figure, eventually a kind of elder states, an advocate of the great international role America was to play in the post-World War II era.
So let’s now anticipate a great flowering of the American political process. We can’t wait! On to the convention and may the best man win!