Party conventions are a big yawn

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:42 p.m. CST, Monday, February 2, 2009

Color me indifferent or even apathetic, but I fully intend to tune out the political dog and pony shows advertising themselves as the Democratic and Republican parties' nominating conventions in Denver and in Minneapolis-St. Paul respectively. Accordingly, from Aug. 25-28 and Sept. 1-4, I intend to catch up on the more intellectually rewarding pursuits of reading, napping, observing pennant races or, perhaps, just watching paint dry.

We have been subjected to interminably lengthy campaigns by both parties: debates, primaries (two marked by overzealous party meddling), caucuses and speeches for at least a year and a half - the prevailing aggregate tenor of which closely approximates that of a botched root canal. Let us face reality, please. We now know the identity of both candidates, we will have enjoyed the extravaganza of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and all that occurred in between - do we really need more pomp and ceremony?

I doubt seriously the selection of vice presidential candidates by either of the candidates will titillate the voter's attention span for more than 24 hours - what else besides Avis has made a splash by being No. 2? Choosing the VPs would be better accomplished in the old smoke-filled rooms (or for the environmentally sensitive, pristine and open air amphitheaters), inasmuch as the ensuing suspense will overshadow the actual choice.

There are but two scenarios that could generate serious emotional arousal (hate and discontent) in the two scheduled conventions. The most obvious would be an attempt by Sen. Clinton to derail the Obama train by demanding a roll call vote of the state delegations, the objective being a floor fight and a brokered convention with her the winner. On the Republican side, perhaps the Ron Paul supporters could stage a re-enactment of Pat Buchanan's 1996 blocking attempt in San Diego. I am not predicting either; however, one or the other could add color to an otherwise uninspired event.

The luminaries scheduled to address the convention attendees will be preaching to their respective choirs. The candidate's wives will say nice things about their husbands, the designated bashers will deliver scathing indictments of the other party's candidates and governing history, at least one of the keynote speakers will be touted as a future presidential shoo-in, and the Clintons, former President Bill and Sen. Hillary, along with President Bush and Vice President Cheney, will deliver addresses that are alternately praised and reviled in purely partisan mode.

Sen. Obama, the presumed Democratic Party anointed, apparently not content with delivering his acceptance speech in the convention center, has opted instead for Denver's Mile High Stadium and its 76,000 seats for that occasion. Sen. McCain, his presumptive Republican adversary, has not to my knowledge booked the Metrodome but instead will deliver his address at the Minneapolis Xcel Convention Center.

Regardless of the platform employed, everyone who has an insatiable appetite for oratory or who has been asleep for the past two years or so will be able to view each address from the comfort of his or her living room, the best seat in the house in my opinion. Having suffered exposure to presidential campaign oratory and accompanying cheerleaders beginning with Roosevelt-Dewey in 1944, my enthusiasm for promissory notes for a brighter future, the cost of which will come from my already strapped pocketbook, is hardly reason to rejoice.

The only new and amusing entertainment obtained from the campaigns thus far has been provided by the Democratic Party and the city of Denver in their combined efforts to throw the most sustainable or "greenest" political convention in history. The host and convention committees have their own "greening directors," whose efforts have included ensuring that almost every component from toilets to transportation to trash to products are union made and environmentally friendly.

By far, the most humorous well-intentioned goal of the convention was the host's attempt at "lean and green" catering and its restriction of fried and fatty foods. In the end, however, cooler heads and more diverse palates prevailed; those guidelines were reduced from mandatory to voluntary. Fried chicken and funnel cakes are back on the menu.

My message to both parties is a simple one: Be as environmentally and politically correct as you wish - but wake me when the conventions are over.

Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at


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John Schultz August 19, 2008 | 1:16 p.m.

Anyone looking for a "real" convention should check out third parties. The Libertarian convention in Denver over the Memorial Day weekend took six ballots before selecting former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr as its nominee - there was no snoozing allowed there.

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