CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After many standing ovations and much shouting of "whoo," the Democrats have wrapped up their convention and are heading home, except for Bill Clinton, who is expected to conclude his remarks sometime around Halloween.
So now both major political parties have presented their visions for America's future, which can be summarized as follows:
THE DEMOCRATIC VISION: If we elect Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, the nation is going straight down the toilet.
THE REPUBLICAN VISION: If we reelect Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the nation is going straight down the toilet.
And now, at last, the time has come for us, the American people — having been presented with these two starkly contrasting philosophies of government at a critical time in our nation's history — to watch football. But first let's take a few minutes to look back on the two conventions, and see what observations we can make.
OBSERVATION ONE: The atmosphere sometimes produces weather.
You'd think that two political parties teeming with highly informed geniuses eager to run the country would already be aware of this fact, but apparently they are not, since the Republicans scheduled their convention for Florida during hurricane season, and the Democrats scheduled their big night for an outdoor stadium in North Carolina in the summer. I am not suggesting here that these geniuses are stupid.
No, wait, I am suggesting that.
OBSERVATION TWO: Street protests are ineffective, by which I mean stupid.
For two weeks now, I have watched protesters shouting. They never talk; they always shout, often through bullhorns — at the police, at the media, at each other, at civilian passersby, and sometimes at nothing. I do not believe any of these protesters changed anybody's mind about anything, because — follow me closely — normal people do not like to be shouted at.
Normal people also are not inclined to listen receptively to arguments presented by anybody dressed as a giant vagina, or a giant anything else. One night in Tampa, as I was walking to my rental car, a convertible pulled up, and in the back seat, riding parade style, were two people wearing full-body furry pink pig costumes. They told me they were riding around Tampa at night dressed as pigs to persuade people to stop eating meat. As they explained their views, my reaction was not to think, "They're right! I shall become a vegetarian!" My reaction was a combination of, "These people are insane," and "I could go for some barbecue."
OBSERVATION THREE: Political conventions are not as much fun as they used to be.
By "fun," I mean, yet again, stupid, but this time in a good way. I'm talking about the days when almost all the delegates wore giant ridiculous hats, and people got off-message, and unscripted things happened, including the occasional fistfight, and the schedule got so screwed up that the presidential nominee had to deliver his acceptance speech at 3:30 a.m. in a haze of cigarette smoke and tear gas.
I'm talking about the days when every convention featured "favorite son" candidates — politicians who had absolutely no chance to win, but their state delegations nominated them anyway, purely so they could have big pointless fun celebrations on the convention floor. I still vividly remember watching, on TV, the 1968 Republican convention, during which the Hawaii delegation nominated Sen. Hiram Fong, thereby setting off a wondrously entertaining 20-minute demonstration — a joyful conga line of people weaving around the floor wearing leis and waving signs that said "HI HI HIRAM!"
That could never happen today. For one thing, Hiram is dead. (Although I would still vote for him.) But the main reason is that nothing remotely frivolous or spontaneous is allowed to happen at conventions anymore. This means that almost all the "excitement" comes from judging how well or poorly a given speaker executed a given speech. Inside the convention bubble, everybody gets very worked up about this; much of what passes for journalism consists of journalists declaring, with journalistic certainty, how a given speaker made them feel.
Anyway, the conventions are over. We won't go through this again for another four years. And we have no way of knowing where the nation will be then.
No, wait, we do: the toilet.
I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some football.