Politics, Pageantry, and Protest
Instead of enjoying my last two weeks of summer, I watched the political conventions with the help of a bottle of whiskey. To spare you from the same pain, I will summarize the festivities in brief.
The Democrats gathered in Denver to hear from their chosen one, who spoke with a combination of arena rock showmanship and thorough policy detail. Al Gore and John Kerry each displayed a vigor entirely lacking in their respective candidacies, leaving me to wonder where those speeches were when we needed them.
Hillary pretended she’s not still bitter, and tried to get the angry female contingent to unite around the uppity young man who dethroned her. When she rhetorically asked the crowd if they supported her to help the disenfranchised, or because she is a woman, they roared “for you,” confirming everyone’s fears that we truly live in a granny-ocracy.
Bill Clinton reminded us that some Democrats know how to run an economy, even though they decry NAFTA to woo blue collar voters. Jimmy Carter tottered around like a frumpy old man, but was denied a speech because he hates Israel. Joe Biden tried to get a call and response going with the crowd, but stumbled over himself trying to find the punch line. Ted Kennedy showed up just to convince everyone he is still alive. Michelle tried to portray herself as a loving mom, not a Harvard-educated, terrorist-fist-jabbing, honky-hater. She spoke passionately about her and Barack’s family story, all while wearing what is surely the tightest dress ever to grace a potential First Lady’s curves, ‘Arwen’ Kucinich notwithstanding.
Obama whistled for the last train to Hopesville, aiming to create change and a better future for the children of tomorrow. Naive hipsters formed lines miles long to get into the arena, only to be horrified by the sight of old white people dancing to Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow and will.i.am for hours. Louis Fernandes ’07, who attended the speech, said that “Obama gave me the audacity to hope that hope was enough to change. I found it incredibly moving … to my bowels.”
Across the plains, the Republican convention portrayed John McCain as a maverick, reminded everyone about his noble service when he got shot down in Nam, and put as much distance between himself and George Bush as possible.
Fred Thompson, displaying his classic Southern drawl, tried his hand as a stand up comedian, claiming Sarah Palin is the only vice presidential candidate who can dress a moose. I think he discounted Hannibal Hamlin, the 15th Vice President under Abraham Lincoln and a former Maine farmer, too quickly. And who knows what else Spiro Agnew was capable of …
George Bush phoned it in via satellite for a few minutes, because he was trying to look busy as yet another hurricane barreled toward New Orleans. First Lady Laura took up the charge, reminding us that “our shared American ideals will always transcend political parties and partisanship.” Unless you are a terrorist-coddling-freedom-hater, in which case the gloves come off.
Joe Lieberman, channelling the unholy combination of Chancellor Palpatine and the Joker, tried to sever his last ties with the Democratic party, wishing he was the vice presidential nominee all the while. Luckily for everyone, he already had his chance and he is now forever removed from the political gene pool.
Sarah Palin tried to show that she is a smart pick, not just because she is a vagina-American and Miss Alaska 1984 runner up, but because her executive experience in Wasilla is greater than that of anyone else on the ticket in either party. She also nominated her husband Todd for “first dude,” citing his qualification as a championship snowmobile racer. I think they just won over the NASCAR dad voting block en masse.
Rudy Giuliani bared his snaggletooth and decried the cosmopolitan, effete nature of the Democrats, which is perfectly in character for a man who has been in drag on national television being felt up by Donald Trump. And then the big hero, John McCain came out, and sounded the clarion call for change. No one seemed to question the fact that the audience was entirely made up of the very bigwigs and fatcats that he pledged to throw out. They cheered all the same, because he’s the only chance they have to keep the party going.
While the confetti fluttered inside and blazered bigwigs gulped champagne, a different kind of conversation took place across the river in Minneapolis. Groups of Ronvoys rolled to Ronstock to disgorge their load of Paultards for three days of peace, love and liberty. They were serenaded by such political luminaries as Tucker Carlson, Grover Norquist, and Jesse Ventura. And still, no one takes them seriously.
Also outside the mainstream political coverage, various groups of activists protested at both conventions. Fox correspondent Griff Jenkins waded bravely into the fray in Denver, only to be surrounded by a group of masked Zapatistas. His interview prompt was “do you believe in freedom?” He didn’t get very far before being drowned out by chants of “fuck Fox News.”
At both convention cities, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War conducted simulated exercises from their deployment experience. Holding their hands up as weapon surrogates, they patrolled urban streets in squad formation. Wearing full desert camouflage, they captured and hooded “Iraqi civilians” to the horror of passersby. The purpose of this street theater was to demonstrate the reality of the current occupation to the American public, delegates and elected officials. It’s not giant puppets or flaming effigies, but at least it was entertaining.
In the Twin Cities, massive preventive arrest sweeps were conducted against such dangerous radicals as members of Food Not Bombs, a bus full of environmentalists, and the National Lawyers Guild. As Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com points out, this is exactly the same behavior that the mainstream media was decrying as China prepared for the Olympics. But when it happens in the United States the Washington Post hails it as law enforcement at work. Seemingly, those freedoms we all care so much about aren’t really respected when you want to do something so dangerous as hold an unauthorized street march or light a flag on fire.
After the balloons are cleared from the aisles, the tear gas canisters from the streets, and the bloggers all go back to their basements, the campaigns can begin their real work of putting obnoxious ads on television. Next week, everyone can go back to watching America’s Next Top Slut, but for two glorious weeks, the eyes of the world were fixed on our favorite whores in suits, and I watched it all so you didn’t have to.
Josh Levinger is a graduate student in the Department of Media Arts And Sciences.