After five days at the RNC in Tampa, I arrived in Charlotte on Monday to a city rollicking with DNC festivities and tumult. A street fair appeared to strain the city's security forces as kids with painted faces and their parents filled the streets, along with delegates, guests, and media. I took refuge in the Huffington Post Oasis, where Arianna Huffington greeted guests who were treated to healthy lunch fare, massages, and facials.
The convention began Tuesday with Michelle Obama as the headliner. Bill Clinton is the keynote speaker on Wednesday, and President Obama addresses supporters in the nearly 74,000 seats in the outdoor Bank of America stadium on Thursday night. Both parties script their conventions nowadays, and some pundits, like NBC's Tom Brokaw, have even suggested that the one hour the networks devote to coverage each night is too much. That's really a shame.
I fell in love with politics as a kid when I first heard the soaring cadence of John F. Kennedy's acceptance speech when he was nominated for President in 1960. I became a political junkie right then and there. I remember watching conventions when the broadcast networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage of floor fights, platform debates, and even walkouts on the convention floor -- but those days are long over.
More of a shame is the endless 24/7 media spin -- telling us what we saw and what to think -- ad nauseum -- and there's blame to go around on both the right and the left. In Tampa, I watched the convention each night in its entirety from the convention hall, and I came to the conclusion that I don't need an intermediary telling me what to think -- and either does anyone else. Perhaps we should all try watching C-Span.
And what about our kids? What can they learn from the conventions and the political process?
• They can learn that our two-party system is part of our government's system of checks and balances. It's a good thing, and prevents excesses of power.
• We should teach them how to observe, fact-check, form their own opinions -- and express them fluently.
• We ought to stop talking about religion in politics. There's still way too much interest in a candidate's theology in a nation that prohibits religious tests. I remember being shocked that Kennedy's religion was an issue in 1960. After all, half the kids in my public school were Catholic, and I had no idea all the previous presidents had been Protestant. If we stop talking about it, it will cease to be important.
• We should impress upon our kids that they can -- and should -- get involved. I was once part of a group of students that Vice President Hubert Humphrey addressed. He said, "If you think politics is dirty, get in there with your bar of political Ivory soap, and clean it up." It was a tall order then, and it's more so now. But it's not impossible. Informed participation is the essence of democracy, and we ought to encourage our best and brightest to go into public service.