Today, the 40th Republican National Convention assembles in hurricane-threatened Tampa, Fla. Seven days later, the 46th Democratic National Convention will assemble in presumably non-hurricane-threatened Charlotte, N.C. Thousands of delegates, many thousands more press personnel and even more political enthusiasts will be on hand.
Vendors will sell political buttons to collectors (does anyone wear them anymore?), and party volunteers will hand out bumper stickers (though I haven't seen many on cars anywhere this year). Party fat-cats will attend elegantly catered receptions, and those lower on the political ladder will buy hot dogs from vendors or sample local cuisine (Cuban food in Tampa's Ybor City; North Carolina barbecue).
The conventions will adopt rules that don't matter (except possibly on delegate selection), adjudge credentials with utter predictability and adopt platforms that bind no one. And of course delegates will officially nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Tampa and Barack Obama and Joe Biden in Charlotte.
People (and the federal government) will spend very large sums of money on all this. Many will ask why we still have national conventions at all.
They are a gift, for some an unwanted gift, from history. The national convention was originated by the long-departed Anti-Masonic Party in 1831 and copied by Andrew Jackson's Democrats in 1832. After the Republican Party was formed in 1854, it followed suit with a national convention in 1856.
Until the 1960s, the national convention was a communications medium. Political leaders in the various states seldom met each other, outside of sessions of Congress, during the four years between presidential elections.
Men did business well into the 1960s in written form: They spent their days reading their correspondence, dictating replies, and proofreading and signing their letters. Long-distance telephone calls were unusual; direct distance dialing was introduced only in the 1950s.
People ordinarily didn't put in writing their bottom-line negotiating position. Recipients sometimes ignored the command to "burn this letter." Better to wait until you could meet in person, in the convention city.
As a result, even the shrewdest politicians didn't know who had how many votes until the convention roll call was conducted. Campaign managers would hold back votes on early ballots to show momentum later. "Favorite son" candidates with support from home state delegations would wait for real contenders to bid for their support.
So there was suspense and drama to the proceedings. In 1960, John Kennedy got his majority for the Democratic nomination from Wyoming, the last state on the roll call. It was not until 1968 that the first media delegate count was conducted by Martin Plissner of CBS News.
The media delegate counts proved correct in the close 1976 Republican race between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan -- at which point the conventions started to take on their current form, as an advertisement for the presidential nominee and, perhaps secondarily, his party.
Sometimes things don't work out. Edward Kennedy avoided grasping Jimmy Carter's hand on the podium in New York in 1980, and Patrick Buchanan arguably overshadowed George H.W. Bush in Houston in 1992. But mostly things go according to script.
The Romney people have theirs prepared. Monday night is "we can do better," with the campaign trying to persuade one of the three broadcast networks to carry Ann Romney's speech. Tuesday is "we built that," with a Ron Paul video -- Hurricane Isaac permitting.
Wednesday is "the middle class agenda," with promises of more jobs and take-home pay. And Thursday, always the climactic night, is "we believe in America," with testimony about Romney's work in the Mormon Church and in the Salt Lake City Olympics and, of course, the nominee's acceptance speech.
The Romneyites are proud of their 3-D, high-resolution video screens (in the old days, delegates watched the tiny distant speakers), the podium inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright (a Wisconsin native, like Paul Ryan) and their efforts to interact with social media like Facebook and Twitter.
But of course it matters much more how the nominees, Ryan and especially Romney, come across. That's the whole point of still holding national conventions.
Some pundits lament the demise of the old conventions. But they couldn't be revived without banning long-distance telephone, the Internet and jet travel.
Contemporary conventions give parties a chance to showcase their nominees. As in much of our politics, an antique form still performs a useful function.
Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.
Courtesy of Jonathan Garthwaite @ Townhall.com
Daniel J. Mitchell
It’s not often that I read something by Paul Krugman and think, “Good point, I hope he’s correct.”
After all, I had to correct Krugman’s inaccurate analysis of Estonia, and also point out the errors in what he wrote about the United Kingdom. And I also noted mistakes he made when writing about Canada and France.
And let’s not forget his absurd assertion that it would be good for the U.S. economy if aliens threatened to attack!
It certainly seems as if he specializes in making mistakes.
But he has just written something that sort of makes sense.
In pushing for draconian cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other programs that aid the needy, Mr. Ryan isn’t just looking for ways to save money. He’s also, quite explicitly, trying to make life harder for the poor — for their own good. In March, explaining his cuts in aid for the unfortunate, he declared, “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.”
To be more specific, I hope Krugman is right in that Ryan wants “to make life harder for the poor” if the alternative is to have their lives stripped of meaning by government dependency. And I agree that it will be “for their own good” if they’re motivated to join the workforce.
To be sure, Krugman wants readers to reach the opposite conclusion. Even though the War on Poverty seems to have put an end to the progress we were making (see this remarkable chart), Krugman equates spending money with compassion.
And I suppose I should point out that he is completely wrong (using dishonest Washington budget math) when writing about “draconian cuts” since Cong. Ryan is merely proposing to slow down how fast government spending is growing.
P.S. For those who want more information, watch this video to learn about how government anti-poverty programs hurt the poor.
P.P.S. Check out this map to see how various U.S. states subsidize poverty.
P.P.P.S. To get your blood boiling, read this horrifying post about how a left-wing international bureaucracy conspiring with the Obama White House to redefine poverty in ways that make America look bad.
Back in 2010, I posted some fascinating (at least to me) data on the underlying differences between conservatives, liberals, and libertarians.
That same year, I also wrote about whether evolutionary history helps explain why some people are leftists.
Let’s now reexamine the difference between those on the right and those on the left, based on some data in a fascinating report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy on the generosity of 359 cities in America.
It turns out that “red state” America is far more generous than “blue state” America. I was thinking of writing about the implications of this new research, but I found out that somebody else beat me to it – and said everything I could possibly say.
Here’s some of what Jeff Jacoby wrote about this study.
According to the Chronicle, the most generous city in America is Provo, Utah, where residents typically give away 13.9 percent of their discretionary income. Boston, by contrast, ranks No. 358: In New England’s leading city, the median household donates just 2.9 percent of its income to charity. Provo’s generosity is typical for its region. Of the 10 most generous cities in America, according to the Chronicle’s calculations, six are in Utah and Idaho. Boston’s tight-fistedness is typical too: Of the 10 stingy cities at the bottom of the list, eight are in New England — including Springfield (No. 363) and Worcester (No. 364). What’s the matter with Massachusetts? How can residents of the bluest state , whose political and cultural leaders make much of their compassion and frequently remind the affluent that we’re all in this together , be so lacking in personal generosity? And why would charitable giving be so outstanding in places as conservative as Utah and Idaho? The question is built on a fallacy.Liberals, popular stereotypes notwithstanding, are not more generous and compassionate than conservatives. To an outsider it might seem plausible that Americans whose political rhetoric emphasizes “fairness” and “social justice” would be more charitably inclined than those who stress economic liberty and individual autonomy. But reams of evidence contradict that presumption, as Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks demonstrated in his landmark 2006 book, Who Really Cares .
Jacoby summarizes the entire discussion in these two sentences.
…this doesn’t mean that there aren’t generous philanthropists in New England. It doesn’t mean selfishness is unknown on the right. What it does mean is that where people are encouraged to think that solving society’s ills is primarily a job for government, charity tends to evaporate.
In other words, statists pretend to be compassionate. And they compensate for their stinginess by wanting to squander our money.
The fact that government programs generally hurt the people they’re designed to help seems irrelevant to them. It’s all about good intentions. But only good intentions with someone else’s cash.
P.S. If you want a less serious look at the differences between various groups, here’s a funny post on the differences between liberals, conservatives, and Texans.
P.P.S. Sometimes people have irreconcilable differences, which is why this post about the right and left getting a divorce is amusing.
P.P.P.S. We already know, from this clever video, that rich left-wingers like the idea of higher taxes for everybody else, but conveniently say no when they’re asked to pay more.
Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.
Courtesy of Jonathan Garthwaite @ Townhall.com