Monday, July 22, 2019

Conventional Wisdom

The Democratic carnival, I mean primaries, begin in about six months. Carnival, as in carnivorous, is not far from the mark as the candidates continue to devour each other. The twenty names will be reduced by half for the Iowa caucus on Feb. 3rd. One month later we in California, along with fifteen other states, will weigh in. I expect another five names to fall away by March 3rd. Still too many going into the convention set for July in Milwaukee.

But this time around the primaries may not matter very much. It’s the secondarys and beyond which will be most telling. According to the crystal ball I just bought at the 99 cent store no candidate will attain a majority. Most states apportion the delegates providing they reach the threshold of 15%, anything less does not get counted. Though in California only the top two will be selected. However all this pertains to the first ballot only. After that it’s a free for all and so-called super delegates also enter the fray. Suddenly we are back to 1924.

Ninety-six years ago the Democrats convened in Madison Square Garden with William McAdoo and Gov. Al Smith, the frontrunners, going head to head. Each had their armies poised for the big prize. Franklin Roosevelt, signifying his return to political life after contracting polio, put Smith’s name as nominee. The Ku Klux Klan had a lot to say about the outcome. Smith was unacceptable because he was, after all, a Roman catholic. 20,000 Klansmen gathered across the river in New Jersey to burn crosses. McAdoo had the Klan’s support. Those with eye-slits in their bedsheets hanging in the closet were staunch Prohibitionists while Smith was known to bend his elbow now and then.

In the early rounds of balloting McAdoo jumped to garner about 40% of the delegates. Then Smith did the same. The rules at the time required a 2/3 majority so neither was even close. So-called favorite sons were offered for consideration in the early voting. It was party time in every sense. Each name shouted out was worthy of a mini-parade with bands and banners. Fistfights broke out. Trump-like obscenities filled the hall. The punch bowl was most probably spiked. An exhibition of pure Americana.

A Wall St. lawyer named Davis ran way down on the list with 3% on the first ballot. By the 10th roll-call he still had only 6%. But this convention was to run for sixteen sweaty days. Sixty names were offered for consideration. The outcome was decided on the 103rd ballot with John Davis on top. His running mate was Charles Bryan, William Jennings Bryan's brother, then regarded as a prairie radical.

Next July will be a time of boisterous hoopla and sober reckoning at the same time, as momentous as the first constitutional convention. If the wrong ticket is chosen to defeat the pernicious President our experiment in Democracy may be doomed.

All those candidates who sloughed off in the winter of 2019 will re-emerge as compromise figures. Beto and De Blasio are likely to rear their heads along with Amy Klobuchar and Gov. Jay Inslee. Deals will be struck, debts paid, horse-trading, threats and favors called in. The winning ticket may be decided in a cannabis-filled room. It could be everybody’s favorite, None-Of-The Above, if the gap between Progressives and Centrists cannot be reconciled.

Syrian ruler, Bashar al Assad is an ophthalmologist, Zelensky President of Ukraine, a comedian, the head of Liberia was a soccer star and Mohammed bin Salman, King of Saudi Arabia hung out with Silicon Valley nerds. None of them qualify to run the P.T.A.; and certainly not our dangerous clown. 

In these bizarro times of pseudo-Populism with mistrust in experience and institutions I’d be fine with a ticket of Jon Stewart, Megan Rapinoe and/or Bruce Springsteen, Michelle Obama or Tom Hanks.

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