Walt Whitman said “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” I agree wholeheartedly with Whitman on this opening night of the political convention season.
I think I have picked up a summer cold or perhaps am suffering from allergies related to all the mold in the air from all the rain that has inundated us over the past month. I have had a sinus headache since last night and thankfully I was able to take off a bit early to go home, lay down and try to clean out my sinuses.
Regardless of what the malady is I am deciding what to watch on television tonight. The MLB Channel features the Baltimore Orioles against the Chicago White Sox while the Republican National Convention and other reality TV dominates the airwaves elsewhere. I’ll have a similar choice when the Democrats have their convention next week though it may not be the Orioles playing.
The problem is that I love baseball, I am thrilled that for the first time in years and years the Orioles are in playoff contention in late August but I also am fascinated by politics in the same way that I am by shark attacks and train wrecks. I began watching political conventions and debates 1968 when I was just 8 years old. I worked for the campaign of Gerald Ford as a volunteer in 1976 and I have watched campaigns and conventions ever since. However this year it is different. I thought it might be gutter quality of the campaign and the absolute polarization of the parties or the unwillingness of the uber-partisans on both sides to actually work together for anything that might be the cause of my lack of interest this year. However that is not the case, other elections in my life have been nasty and partisan.
Unlike other election years there is no drama. Neither party’s convention packs any drama this year. Obama was an unchallenged incumbent and Romney destroyed his fragmented conservative opponents by carpet bombing them when they started to gain traction. There will be no surprises. The nominees have been set for months, the VP picks are chosen, the platforms offer nothing really new. Gone are the days of tension waiting to find out the VP nominee of a close role call vote or an insurgent candidate that is allowed, unlike Ron Paul to speak at the convention. Even protestors, who are a staple of the American political drama are being cordoned off by massive police and security forces a half mile away from the convention site. What happens in Tampa will be followed next week by the same show under a different name in Charlotte. It is as if the conventions of both parties are completely in the thrall of the special interests and that nothing unscripted can be allowed to interrupt the show.
The speakers will do their best to fire up their respective electoral base by demonizing the opposing party and at the same time will do their best to make their candidate look good. The pundits and preachers have all chosen sides and smelled armpits while the advertising barrages of both campaigns and their allied Super-PACs and mega-donors are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in mostly negative advertisements. I get no respite from this since where I am stationed and where my home is are both swing states. Thus I and millions of others have to suffer through an unending bombardment of negativity, lies and distortion.
The one issue that really matters to me, that of what is happening to our military serving in harm’s way in Afghanistan will scarcely be addressed. There will be short tributes to “the troops” at both conventions but it will for the most part be bumper sticker patriotism devoid of any real depth, passion or empathy. But the fact is the vast majority of the country is not involved in the war and many don’t even know that there is a war going on or that we are on the verge of being sucked into other wars. Everyone is happy to “support the troops” especially if it doesn’t cost them anything. So for me that huge displays of red white and blue decorations and Old Glory flying over these conventions is somewhat askew with the reality that I see. It is cheap patriotism, except for the diamond, ruby and sapphire studded 24k gold pendants and American flag pins adorning the faithful. Those are expensive.
Please know that I recognize the profound differences between the parties and the choice that the voters of this nation will have to make in November. I just think that this year the conventions are lacking in drama, lacking in real passion and for that matter are simply places where the most partisan elements of both parties gather, surrounded by the big money people and treated as a new aristocracy by the media.
Streakers would make either convention more interesting
Because of this, and the availability of all the convention coverage by a multiplicity of sources from all sides of the American political-media spectrum as well as overseas media I don’t need to watch either convention. I might watch Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their acceptance speeches but I am not going to trouble myself with the rest of it, unless a hoard Ron Paul of streakers make a dash through the convention, Paul Ryan converts to Islam, Chris Christie makes the case for himself in 2016 or if Joe Biden shows up in Tampa and steals the GOP nomination. That would make it interesting. It would take similar events at next week’s Democratic Party convention to make me watch it.
So tonight it is baseball. The Orioles are having a magical year. They are three and a half games behind the Yankees in the American League East and tied for the lead in the American League Wild Card race. They have already won more games this year than they did all of last season. They have won 13 straight one run games and no-one, with the possible exception of me and maybe Buck Showalter thought that they would be in this race right now. With just over a month left in the regular season the Orioles matter. That my friends is drama, that is inspirational, that is worth watching. So to Mitt and the GOP faithful this week and President Obama and the Democrat faithful next week, I have better things to do than watch you. I have baseball.