This year’s Grand Old Party (GOP) selection of a presidential nominee to run against a sitting president is reminiscent of the good old days when party conventions were mini-dramas played out on black and white televisions around the country. It kept families riveted to their TV sets. The three networks trotted out their news anchors — Walter Cronkite (CBS), David Brinkley and Chet Huntley (NBC), and Frank Reynolds (ABC) were perched high above the convention floor bringing bits of news from the goings-on behind the scenes at the party conventions.
In recent years, political conventions have been more regal in presenting the “chosen one” for the two major parties. It has become a crowning ceremony rather than a political convention where there were several ballots cast before anyone knew the outcome.
One might recall the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver, where the Greek Styrofoam pillars gave the look of a coronation and less like a political convention. It was a Holllywood-like production of the Democratic candidate and eventual president, Barrack Hussein Obama, the nation’s 44th occupant of the oval office.
The Republicans’ coronation of Viet Nam war veteran and prisoner of war John McCain was dead on arrival when it took center stage at the Xcel Center in downtown St. Paul. Then Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was selected at the behest of party conservatives to represent them on the ticket. McCain-Palin bombed.
So what has changed? Well, in the old days of black and white television/radio coverage, candidates had to work the party delegates (not the party hacks) at the convention after trotting themselves through primary states and caucuses. Most have heard of smoke-filled back room deals that were brokered by factions within the party before the survivor was crowned as the representative of either party.
Today, there is a growing divide within each party. Perhaps the public is more aware of this divide by the continuous flow of information and commentary that passes for news on a number of cable “news” outlets. For example, the mainstream media contends that the GOP is battling between the conservative wing of the party (Tea Party members) and the stodgy old guard that has trotted out candidates like McCain, Bob Dole, and George Herbert Walker Bush.
This year is no different. The stodgy old candidate of the Grand Old Party is former governor of a liberal state, one Mitt Romney. He’s been endorsed by other old stodgy “also ran” candidates, including McCain, G.H.W. Bush, and Dole. Hummm. Is there a pattern here? All three former candidates nominated to run were defeated because they failed to gain the support of the party’s conservative base. In one case the candidate ran as a conservative and later moved to the left. (One might reference the pre-election promise by the first Bush that eventually led to his downfall: “Read my lips—no new taxes.”) Once elected, the elder Bush raised taxes. That was used by his rival, William Jefferson Clinton to shoot down the World War II fighter pilot’s bid for a second term.
The 2008 primary election was a knock-down, drag-out battle between two head-strong Democrats: Obama and another Clinton, the senator from New York, Hillary. Their one-on-one battle lingered into July of 2008 before Obama eventually won the Dem’s nomination.
Are these primaries more about fights for power and prominence within the party or is it that folks living in primary and caucus states just can’t make up their minds?
Well, we’ll know how Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii folks are leaning as Republicans vote in today’s elections.
Will it be Mitt, Rick, Newt or Dr. Ron to face off against this sitting president who has stashed away a billion to receive an annual paycheck of $500,000? At this point it appears as though Mitt has the upper hand.
We’ll have to wait for the final results to come in, even if we have to have a brokered Republican convention.