09/26/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Platform Junkies

Democrats have fallen on Denver like so many highly opinionated Shriners. The city is ready for them, with smiling volunteers posted at every street corner. If you get directions and still look lost, any one of them would walk you to your destination.

It has a light rail system too just like the one we've all dreamed of. Zoning was once a bad word around here. Now a town that grew gas stations next to McMansions has caught and passed less environmentally hip states like, well, mine.

Not every system worked perfectly. My plane circled Denver another hour before landing. The mobbed airport was the size of Manhattan but had the feel of Ellis Island.

I hopped a bus to a baggage claim, then squeezed on a shuttle for a ninety minute ride to my rented downtown digs. I dropped into bed, exhausted. The key to all conventions is logistics. If at all possible, arrange to attend with a professional wedding planner.

At the baggage claim I had started asking conventioneers what they knew about the party platform; had they read it, did they like it, when might it be adopted. I felt like Jay Leno "Jay walking" in LA popping tough civics questions like "Who's Dick Cheney?"

The next morning I visited the breakfast of my home state delegation, Connecticut. I kept up with the platform quiz but if anybody knew anything, they were keeping mum.

Connecticut is bivouacked far out of town, by my calculation, somewhere in Wyoming. I wondered why the banishment then a one word answer flashed: Lieberman. It was our punishment for letting him be born in our state and of course, reelecting him. Fair is fair.

A political convention is a Plato's Retreat of networking. Delegates get the ball rolling each morning at these breakfasts. Chatting them up's a lot easier early in the week. What with round the clock receptions and open bars, by Wednesday morning the crowd starts to look like the cast party from Night of the Living Dead.

But even on Monday any stab at getting up a conversation about the platform was doomed.
In a sense I knew it wasn't fair. There's no platform fight. At earlier meetings of the Platform Committee -- we do have one -- Clinton delegates were placated with some health care and other language. But it was mostly about form.

Political parties once fought bitterly over platforms. Think of young Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey standing up for civil rights in 1948, or 36 year old William Jennings Bryan fighting for free silver, so that mankind "will not be crucified on a cross of gold." Or think of Viet Nam.

Now political campaigns are more like advertising campaigns. Obama's campaign has been criticized for being too thematic, but in this regard it simply extends a trend.

I take some comfort from the Republicans. Their platform has a few more specifics, nearly every one an idea that John McCain once denounced as dishonest and mean spirited. This doesn't seem to bother McCain at the moment, but if he loses he'll hate himself for how he tried to win.

On a walk this morning I passed an old church. In front were a half dozen of the faithful holding the bloodiest cross of crucifixion I'd ever seen. I asked why. A protest, one answered. Of what? The Democratic Platform, for endorsing sodomy and abortion.

Well that's one way of reading it I said. The two men bearing the cross looked like demented army rangers. They said they thought the clueless Democrats would mistake them for peace protesters. Not a chance I told them.

I smiled. At last, I thought, platform readers. It wasn't William Jennings Bryan but I thanked them for their interest.

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