The Democrats Convene

 The Democrats begin their convention today, and it should make for an interesting show.

Viewership will likely be down from the last time around, and to at least the same precipitous extent as in the recent Republican convention. The poor ratings are a result of counter-programming by the other four hundred or so networks, a general lack of interest in politics, and the drama-free nature of the modern convention, so it might even be worse for the Democrats. Professional football’s season opener will be televised at the same time Bill Clinton delivers his much ballyhooed keynote address, and by now Americans have heard so many speeches by Barack Obama that all but his most obstinate supporters will be content to skip another one.

Still, it should be worth watching to see what the Democrats might do. The party has some tricky business to get done at the convention, and will have to resist its usual impulses to pull it off.

They have to talk about the economy, lest it seem they don’t care about what voters regard as the most important issue of the election, but they can’t claim that happy days are here again without annoying the many millions who are out of work or under-employed or the millions more who have seen their incomes and wealth fall despite the blessing of a job. We expect to hear a lot about how very much worse things would have been if they hadn’t racked up $5 trillion in and debt and lavished the money on public sector unions, phony baloney “green jobs” scams, and grandiose public works projects that turned out to not be shovel-ready, so it should make for an entertaining spectacle.

They also have to rev up the base, which has been disappointed by the administration’s failure to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet and otherwise deliver the promised utopia, but they have to do so without alienating the non-ideological voters who are still up for grabs. That means touting the administration’s work on behalf of radical environmentalists without taking credit for the resulting high energy costs, promising abortions, contraceptives, and hot towels for everyone without seeming the libertine party or offending members of the various ancient religious institutions that they’re bullying in the process, and promising spoils to various ethnic minorities without seeming hostile to white folks. Given the party’s genuine enthusiasm for these causes, and its deeply felt disdain for anyone who gets in the way, we expect they’ll have limited success in the effort.

The surest way to rev up the base is to bash the Republicans, of course, but the Democrats will need to do so without seeming mean-spirited and angry. This will be the trickiest business of all, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they simply abandon the effort early on in the proceedings.

No matter how vituperative the convention might become, the talking heads on the networks that spare a few hours for the convention will be endeavor to make it seem quite reasonable and restrained. Those watching on the complete and commentary-free C-SPAN or catching the highlights on YouTube and various blogs — and there’s been some speculation that they number in the millions — will likely come away with a different impression.

— Bud Norman