Party Conventions Should Stay Virtual From Now On
August 24, 2020

With two-and-a-half months until the November election, it's now time for the candidates to take center stage with their political parties rallying soundly behind them. The debates are over, and it's on to the conventions. Those, however, like everything else in this Covid pandemic era, looks and sounds completely different. In this case, however, that might not be such a bad thing.

The Democrats were supposed to have their four-night extravaganza in Milwaukee last week, but due to the pandemic, social distancing, and other protocols, the only people that were actually in Wisconsin for the convention were the people who were running the video machines controlling the television feed that would be sent out to the nation. There were no balloon drops, no party hats, no reporters lost among the sea of delegates on the convention floor, and no 'Happy Days Are Hear Again' played by brass bands.

The speeches, some live and some recorded, were done remotely. The nominating roll call vote was a nicely-produced video montage. The convention still covered four nights, but the major speeches covered an hour each night—just enough for the party to get its message out, and not get the viewers too bogged down with what many would consider minutia.

The Democrats, who at one time had 20 candidates wishing to unseat Donald Trump for the presidency, rolled out a non-stop lineup of heavy hitters, all preaching the greatness of Joe Biden, and what a horrible world we would live in if the incumbent should win a second term. Monday it was Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama. Even former Republican candidate John Kasich spoke, presenting himself as a pro-Biden Republican. Tuesday was a 17-person virtual keynote speech, plus short comments from Bill Clinton and Jill Biden. Wednesday was V-P nominee Kamala Harris' night preceded by a pointed Barack Obama speech aimed at Trump. Thursday, Biden was asked to give the 'speech of his life', accepting the party's nomination, which he delivered without any applause or cheering in the background, making the message sound more sincere and personal.

The convention turned out to be great political theater even when done virtually. Try to imagine a State of the Union address that went uninterrupted by those numerous rounds of applause. You get the full effect without all the extra fluff. Fluff, though, that you have to admit can be kind of fun sometimes. You know, when the representative of whichever state you want to think of, gets up and says how great they are, and then proudly cast their delegates for so-and-so, or some unsuspecting delegate tries to look professional while they unknowingly have confetti hanging from their nose. Those moments are gone this time, but it's just as well.

Maybe it's because of the pandemic, or maybe it's completely unrelated, but the conventions are on consecutive weeks this year. It used to be that one was held in July and one was held in August, meaning that the party that went first could gloat for a month, or the party that went second would have something to attack for a few weeks. Now that they're back-to-back, it's kind of punch-counter punch.

This week it's the Republicans turn, but things are a little different. Because Trump is the incumbent and essentially ran for the party nomination unopposed, the formal nomination and roll call vote was done earlier today, and before the networks began their prime time coverage. Also different, Trump will speak on all four nights. This evening, he appeared in a taped conversation with American hostages who were freed from various countries during his administration. Similar appearances are expected Tuesday and Wednesday, before his finale Thursday night.

Otherwise, it will be more of the same, only reversed. Tonight, for example, former U-N Ambassador Nikki Haley said Trump “has a record of strength and success. The former Vice President has a record of weakness and failure.” Donald Trump, Jr. was the next speaker, and referred to Biden and the 'radical left' several times, and called Biden the “Loch Ness Monster of the swamp”, saying that he “sticks his head up every now and again to run for President.” In showing the party's diversity, the final speaker of the evening was Tim Scott from South Carolina, the only black Republican senator. More to come through Thursday.

The networks still deem political conventions as news, so how each party wishes to use their one hour a night for four nights is up to them, but these events are already a sideshow. It's a week of propaganda for each. Cutting out the streamers, horns, confetti, campaign buttons, and crowds doesn't really change that.

What did Thom Brennaman really say?: This was a bad week for a couple of sportscasters. Cincinnati Reds television play-by-play man Thom Brennaman has been suspended indefinitely by the team after he was heard using an anti-gay slur. Print and broadcast reports were not more specific, other than saying he thought they were still in commercial. The Reds were playing Kansas City, and as Fox Sports Ohio came back from break, Brennaman was heard saying, “one of the fag capitals of the world.” Brennaman was pulled from the air later in the game, and issued an apology before leaving. Brennaman is also a broadcaster for Fox, and has been suspended there as well.

Milbury pulled from hockey broadcasts: Meanwhile, in what seemed to at least attempted to be a light-hearted comment, NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury has reportedly lost his job by saying that the bubble format “is a perfect place. Not having any women here to disrupt your concentration.” The comments were made during Thursday's Islanders-Capitals playoff game. The NHL issued an apology, calling the comments sexist. Milbury has been removed from playoff broadcasts, but his broadcasting future is uncertain.

Funnier, and non-offensive comment: The Los Angeles Dodgers just completed a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies, and are now 23-4 against them in their last 27 games, prompting Dodger radio play-by-play man Charley Steiner to say, “The Dodgers are treating the Rockies the way the Harlem Globetrotters used to treat the Washington Generals. The only thing the Rockies are missing is [founder and point guard] Red Klotz.”

Kobe on their minds: Today is 8/24, and the Los Angeles Lakers are remembering Kobe Bryant tonight by wearing black 'mamba' uniforms during their playoff game against Portland. During the first ten years of Bryant's 20-year career, he wore number 8, and scored 16,866 points and won three championships. He then switched to number 24, and over his last ten years, scored 16,777 points with two championships and a league MVP award. Ironically, Bryant's birthday was 8/23. He would have turned 42 yesterday.

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