05/09/2005 11:49 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Democrats: Defying Convention

This blog is like a young visitor to Neverland Ranch: just a few hours old, quite popular, and likely to make some news.

To wit:

Out of the blocks, newsman Walter Cronkite has proposed that the Democratic Party “organize a convention this year to debate and resolve a platform that would provide the confused electorate some idea of what the party stands for.”

He’s right. The electorate IS confused. The platform DOES need to be resolved. But I wonder, is a convention the solution? And is “this year” soon enough?

Last month, Democrats enjoyed a trial run: California Dems held their convention. I was invited to speak to the assembled delegates, who no doubt expected that I, as a writer for Dennis Miller, would be the Fox News in the henhouse. Ensconced between Ann Lewis and Arianna Huffington, I told a quick story (Arianna, stop me if you’ve heard this one) about my recent trip to Edgefield, South Carolina, the proud “birthplace of ten South Carolina governors” (and the resting place of at least one -- I have a picture of myself at Strom Thurmond’s gravesite to prove it). I explained that as I drove into that cozy Republican town, a billboard caught my attention. It wasn’t about politics; rather, the billboard was a public service announcement -- or what passes for a public service in Edgefield -- but it unwittingly summed up what Republicans have done so well for so long, to the torment of so many Democrats. And it read:

“Identify Your Target…And Hunt Safely.”

Identify your target, and hunt safely. It’s what Republicans have been doing politically for years.

It’s also what Democrats find maddening about Republicans. Republicans, say Democrats, are too simplistic about what ails America, and their solutions are straight out of “J.A.G.” (For Democrats, nothing is any less complex than a “West Wing” episode.) Republicans, say Democrats, see everything as black and white. (Yet Democrats see everything as gray, and gray. And maybe grey, depending.)

Yes, of course, Republicans are too simplistic in how they view the world. Everyone agrees with that, right? Then why did Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid say recently he believes the Democratic Party should stand for “simplicity?” Perhaps because he knows: if you aim at too many targets, you can’t hunt safely.

With due respect to Mr. Cronkite, and as much as I love conventions, I’m not certain the solution for Democrats is to assemble thousands of passionate people to pound away on a single platform. If Habitat For Humanity worked that way, there wouldn’t be enough hammers to go around. And they wouldn’t build a house, they’d build an Escher painting.

Come to think of it, perhaps there’s a simpler solution: while Howard Dean raises the money, hand over the platform to Jimmy Carter. He’d identify a target. He’d nail the darn thing down.