Political Animal


August 24, 2012 9:10 AM Getting the Deliberation Out of the Way

By Ed Kilgore

I don’t know what proportion of Political Animal readers actually remember the days when national political conventions were semi-deliberative affairs. It’s been a good long while; 1976 (Republicans) was the last time there was any real doubt about the nominee, and probably the last real convention drama (good or bad speeches aside) was the announcement of Dan Quayle as the vice presidential candidate by the GOP in 1988.

Still, for all the stage management and gradual compression of events, there have been some formalities that remained sacred, including the actual nomination of candidates on the penultimate day. But this year, fearful in equal measures of human and natural disruptions, the GOP is going to go ahead and get the pro forma roll call vote out of the way on the first night, according to the New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny:

Mr. Romney will be elevated as the party’s standard bearer on Monday - not Wednesday as previously expected - to keep the official business of the roll call delegate vote from competing with broader themes of introducing Mr. Romney. Officials also are keeping an eye on a potential threat from Tropical Storm Isaac and considering concerns about a possible disruption from Ron Paul supporters at the Republican National Convention next week.
It is a change in the script from previous conventions, where the formal nomination usually takes place on the second to last night of the convention. It is a formality, and Mr. Romney will still deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday evening, but the change is significant and an effort to keep the convention focused tightly on Mr. Romney.
“The roll call will take place on Monday,” said Jim Dyke, a convention spokesman, who dismissed suggestions that the schedule had abruptly changed. “We will go through the roll call in alphabetical order all the way through.”

Since the broadcast TV networks have already announced they’re skipping the first night as irrelevant, that means Romney will already be the official nominee before network coverage even begins. So technically, all you’ll be seeing on the tube is the manufactured post-convention froth.

We’ve certainly come a long way from the days when the “roll call of the states” was the real climax of conventions, and candidates were able to stage “spontaneous demonstrations” that sometimes lasted hours. Any spontaneity in Tampa (or Charlotte) will be quickly put to sleep.

Anybody with fond or unhappy memories of the “old days” of less stage-managed political conventions is welcome to post them in the comment thread.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on August 24, 2012 9:19 AM:

    The first in what will seem an unending string of booring posts about the Republican convention. Yawn.

  • Toon Moene on August 24, 2012 9:21 AM:

    "So technically, all you’ll be seeing on the tube is the manufactured post-convention froth."

    In other words, basically like NBC reported on the Olympics.

  • c u n d gulag on August 24, 2012 9:24 AM:

    Maybe there's a different reason for doing that on the night when the Convention doesn't have live TV coverage.

    I know a deal has supposedly been struck, but is it possible that the Republicans powers-that-be are afraid that some Ron Paul supporters may be less than happy with Mitt and those 'p-t-b,' and make some sort of a disturbance?

    Yeah, I know, this is probably very, very wishful thinking on my part.

  • Odie Jackson on August 24, 2012 9:27 AM:

    They're trying to avoid anymore headaches from the TEAbag screwballs.

  • troglodyte on August 24, 2012 9:32 AM:

    Ohio passes!

  • Josef K on August 24, 2012 9:33 AM:

    A pity, given the Tampa convention held the prospect for the most drama (albeit the least substance).

  • bluestatedon on August 24, 2012 9:34 AM:

    "The first in what will seem an unending string of booring posts about the Republican convention. Yawn."

    Nobody's forcing you to visit WM, or to comment. If you find the material here "booring," perhaps RedState or FreeRepublic is more your style.

  • wihntr on August 24, 2012 9:35 AM:

    The first convention I remember watching was the Dem convention in 1968. I was eight at the time. Looking back on it as an adult and historian, it was just one of the wierder/scarier things that happened in a very tumultous year (Tet, MLK assassination, RFK assasination, invasion of Hungary, etc.) Many years afterward my folks told me that with everything goping on that year it really did seem like a revolution f some sort might occur.

  • Lifelong Dem on August 24, 2012 9:37 AM:

    Remember the spontaneity of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago? Demonstrations and such ... ?

  • Kathryn on August 24, 2012 9:40 AM:

    Well this will date me but so what. I remember the nominating process of JFK, I was a high school student and snuck out after my parents were in bed to watch more of the excitement on the black and white TV. It went way into the wee hours, but at some point I went back to bed. It was exciting and suspenseful, not like today's farce. Of course, there may be fireworks in Tampa with the various factions.

  • Anonymous on August 24, 2012 9:45 AM:

    @bluestatedon on August 24, 2012 9:34 AM:

    "Nobody's forcing you to visit WM, or to comment. If you find the material here "booring," perhaps RedState or FreeRepublic is more your style."

    Wow-bluestatedon: what was that? I am not an old-timer here nor a prolific commenter, but I have seen nothing to suggest that Ron Byers is some sort of troll, etc. And even if he is, as long as he is civil he has as much right to comment here as anyone else.

    We progressives are supposed to be inclusive in nature!

  • James M on August 24, 2012 9:47 AM:

    That last anonymous post was me, by the way....

  • FridayNext on August 24, 2012 9:51 AM:

    My money is still on Isaac, delegate from The Love Boat, to make a splash in Tampa. However, he is now tracking a little to the west of Tampa, so I guess he was bought by the Koch's as well.

  • Bo on August 24, 2012 10:16 AM:

    The GOPers just want to get Mittens baptized before Tampa has to be evacuated. However -- when that happens -- I hope they leave the candidates and a skeleton TV crew behind. That way, we will all be able to watch the real teabaggin', fundie GOP on display . . . the empty-suited (Mittens) and empty-headed (Ryan) delivering empty promises to an empty room.

  • Ron Byers on August 24, 2012 10:20 AM:

    bluestatedon on August 24, 2012 9:34 AM:

    Testy aren't we. Apparently you don't come here often. If you did you would realize I am not a troll. My obviously inartful comment was aimed at all the mandatory coverage (from all media sources) of what the Republicans are hoping will be a totally buttoned down convention we are going to have to endure over the next week. I just think we can all do better reading about anything other than the canned Republican convention.

    I am really, really hoping for a Ron Paul floor fight. Then the convention would be newsworthy.

  • c u n d gulag on August 24, 2012 10:25 AM:

    I was 10, and I remember that convention vividly. I remember the cover of life, a b&w photo of this young white guy with long curly hair, shirtless, defiantly holding his middle finger in the "F-U" salute.

    And I remember the fear that came from the riots at that convention.
    I also remember Mayor Daley committing this gaff: "The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder."

    It's my belief that this convention was what put Nixon in the WH, and created the still ongoing backlash against liberalism and liberals.

    Here it is, 44 years later, and we're STILL fighting over the 60's!

    PS: Ron Byer's cool.
    Sometimes each of us regular commenters gets tired of bitching about the same things.
    I'm sure Ed is, too.
    But that's NO REASON for him not to post important information.
    Whether people choose to read it, or comment on it, is their business.

  • MuddyLee on August 24, 2012 10:37 AM:

    1968 Demo convention - can't forget that one. I was watching the CBS coverage but a friend called me when Sandy Vanocur of ABC got knocked down by somebody. Music wise, check out the first Chicago/Chicago Transit Authority album for "the whole world is watching" chant at the start of one of the songs.

  • jjm on August 24, 2012 10:48 AM:

    Tell me one single thing Romney has contributed to United States' society --and I might feel I should watch his acceptance speech at the convention. so: Has he endowed university chairs, started anti-malarial programs in Africa, created philanthropic societies?

    His party accuses Obama of being 'un-American' but this man seems more than un-American, he seems absolutely hostile to it, ensuring that almost none of his wealth goes into our treasury, and he entertains relations with more foreign entities than Obama ever did: Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, El Salvador (source of his Bain start-up funds) and anywhere else he can keep his immense wealth from helping out the country of which he is a citizen.

  • Bo on August 24, 2012 10:58 AM:

    There is an excellent analysis of Romney's tax strategy here --> http://www.taxanalysts.com/www/features.nsf/Articles/1DB2A18D079EDCD685257A59001CB873?OpenDocument

    While most of it is an interesting, expert, straight-forward assessment, the money quote at the end reflects exactly how I view Romney: "It is often said that the rich get rich and stay rich by watching every penny. Romney certainly fits that description. He looks for every tax angle, to a degree that is unbecoming in someone who would be the executive in command of the administrative apparatus that enforces the tax law.

    "Romney is on record as saying that Americans wouldn't want a candidate who overpaid his taxes -- implying that anyone who does is a fool. But a wee bit more patriotism in the form of willingness to contribute to the commonweal of a country that enabled him to get rich might be in order. He doesn't realize that an elected official is not a private citizen anymore."

  • DavidNOE on August 24, 2012 12:13 PM:

    Dating myself, the first convention I remember watching was the 1952 Republican convention that nominated Ike. Wasn't the first convention I remember - those were the 1948 ones. I don't remember which party went first, but those I listened to on the radio because we didn't have TV in those days. I don't know if either of those was televised at all, but if so it was only in maybe NYC or Chicago or LA - our nearest big city was St. Louis, then the 8th largest city in the country, and TV hadn't come there yet. Those were still conventions where you didn't know who would be the eventual nominee, though you could make an educated guess. The 1968 Democratic convention was the last one I bothered paying much attention to, although I did watch Obama's speech at the last one.

  • Jim Strain on August 24, 2012 12:15 PM:

    I'm an old guy, and I remember watching -- if not really understanding -- some conventions as a child in the 1950s. I wasn't some kind of prodigy; we only had two TV channels, and that's all that was on. Even then, though, I know that when those Southern guys' speeches mentioned "nigras" they really meant another word.

    The Democratic convention of 1960 was in Los Angeles and it was the first one I watched by choice (I was in high school). Just before it started, I happened to be downtown at the old MTA depot (buses and the Long Beach red car) and was amazed to see scores of men wearing white cowboy hats -- the Texas delegation on their way to Disneyland. Besides Kennedy and Humphrey, LBJ was also running for the nomination, though he was considered a very dark horse. One afternoon, a VERY spirited "spontaneous" demonstration broke out in the Texas delegation. A roving reporter stuck his mike into the face of an enthusiastic (and not too sober) demonstrator and asked, "Sir, what do you think of Lyndon Johnson?" I'll never forget his very loud and slightly slurred answer: "He's the greatest man in the Yew knotted States!" My friend and I laughed and laughed.
    . . . jim strain in san diego.

  • Judith Martinez on August 24, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Oh my goodness ! Yes, I do remember being part of 1 of those "spontaneous Demonstrations". In 1960 when Kennedy ran against Johnson many delegates supported Adalai, Stevenson, though most delegations were committed to either Kennedy or Johnson. What a floor demonstration we had-Eleanor Roosevelt gave an impassioned speech as did a young up-and-coming young Senator, Frank Church. I'll never forget those moments. It turned out that the whole thing was part of an effort bought and paid for by Johnson to pull votes from Kennedy. Ah well......

  • buddy66 on August 24, 2012 1:12 PM:

    Speak memory ...

    I recall the great Oregon senator Wayne Morse angrily recoiling in 1952 from the VP selection of Richard Nixon by Eisenhower's team. It may have been the first time a VP was not selected by the delegates. Morse was so angry it inspired him to leave the GOP and run for his reelections successively, and successfully, as an Independent and a Democrat. The more recent conventions are embarrassingly silly charades.

  • David Carlton on August 24, 2012 4:42 PM:

    I was twelve when I first started to pay attention to conventions, and it was the 1960 Democratic Convention. A good white southern kid, I was a supporter of LBJ, and still had naive hopes that he'd pull it off in the end. The roll call went *very* late, and I learned only the next morning that JFK had won on the first ballot--there still being a theoretical possibility of multiple ballots.

    The other thing I remember was the fight over the civil rights plank in the platform--done before the full convention, with ample rhetoric from both sides. Some young guy posted himself in the balcony with a huge Confederate flag, and waved it every time some seg scored a point--at least until told to cease and desist. That was probably my first real, unfiltered view of the Great Debate over segregation that would politically dominate my adolescence--and it was a real debate, over a real issue, and carried on in real, unscripted time for all to see and hear. Thinking back on that time, I realize why I now find politics so phony and unsatisfying; you'll never hear anything that raw and honest in either Tampa or Charlotte.