Dave Barry

Whatever, it's a field goal

BY DAVE BARRY

The Democratic presidential convention finally reached its dramatic and historic climax Thursday night as Barack Obama, appearing in a stadium packed with nearly 80,000 wildly cheering supporters, kicked a 67-yard field goal to defeat the Oakland Raiders in overtime. He also formally accepted the Democratic nomination, thereby becoming the first Hawaiian-born Indonesian-educated African-American ever to become a major-party presidential candidate since Al Gore.

I was on the convention floor Wednesday for the historic roll-call vote that nominated Obama. The roll call is one of the most entertaining parts of any convention, because it's when the state-delegation chairpersons, before casting their votes, name the various things that their states are proud of, as in:

''Madam Secretary, the great state of [name of some state that no normal person would ever call ''great''], where the wind blows horizontally and water goes down the drain counter-clockwise; birthplace of the inventor of a key chemical component of Cool Ranch Doritos; home of the world's largest organically grown rutabaga . . . ''

I am not exaggerating by much. One highlight of Wednesday's roll call was when John Knutson, chairperson of the Maine Democratic Party, said -- and I am not making this quote up -- ''The sun comes up in Maine first in the nation. And we feel very honored to be . . . to have that as our singular . . . whatever. Privilege.''

Maine: The Whatever State.

Anyway, the Democrats pulled off the nomination with a dramatic series of parliamentary maneuvers in which New Mexico yielded to Illinois, which had passed earlier; then Illinois yielded to Ben Affleck, who is required, under party bylaws, to be prominently involved in every single thing that happens at the Democratic convention; then Ben yielded to New York; which, being New York, yielded to nobody.

Then Hillary Clinton magically appeared, like Glinda in the Wizard of Oz except wearing a pantsuit. She asked the convention to nominate Obama by acclaim, which the convention did, and the band kicked into the O'Jays' hit song Love Train, which is about the urgent need to bring the world together in peace and harmony, and also to drink Coors Light beer.

Immediately everybody in the convention hall except Wolf Blitzer started dancing. I've been to every convention since 1984, and I have to say that Democratic delegates always manage to look good when they engage in group ''rock-n-roll''-style dancing, in stark contrast to Republican delegates, who always look like they're subjects in some kind of cruel mass experiment involving random-firing high-voltage buttock probes.

But the American nation does not choose its president on the basis of the musical abilities of his party's delegates. The American nation chooses its president based on whether he exhibits certain key leadership qualities, such as height.

So now the real work begins for the Democrats. Now they must head for the airport in soybean-powered vehicles and return to their home states, where they must try to communicate their message to ordinary mainstream voters who perhaps have not had time to closely follow the convention coverage because they were watching Project Runway.

That message, in a nutshell, is that Barack Obama represents hope and change and an attractive but nonthreatening wife and experience in the form of Joe Biden; whereas John McCain -- although he is a great patriot for whom the Democrats have the deepest personal respect -- is the warmongering environment-wrecking house-forgetting evil demon spawn of Satan.

Of course next week the Republicans will hold their convention, where their goal will be to present McCain as basically Abraham Lincoln with a hotter wife, while at the same time portraying the Obama-Biden ticket as Arugula Snob and the Hairplug Buffoon.

Then, over the coming months, these two competing visions of America will be presented relentlessly to the voters by means of 30-second commercials. It can be rough at times, but it's because of this spirited ''give and take'' that, when Election Day finally rolls around, so many millions of American voters, having heard so much from both sides, are able to decide what they really want for their nation, as it faces the challenges ahead:

Whatever.

©2008 Dave Barry

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