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Democratic Convention Should Avoid Artificiality

Column by David S. Kelman

The planning has been going for months. Everyone is going to show their happiest faces. A lot of money is going into it. The goal is to win people over, hide any faults, and put on a good show. Am I talking about rush? Nope. It's time for the Democratic National Convention.

Is it possible for anyone to top the carefully choreographed show the Republicans put on a few weeks ago? It appears that the Democrats are certainly going to try. The question is, why has the political convention scene this year degenerated into a few nights of elaborate info-mercials?

After the 1992 Republican convention, I can understand the GOP's desire to present a "kinder, gentler" face to the country this time around (Pat Buchanan's '92 speech may forever leave a Klan-rally type image in some people's minds). The show they put on certainly seemed to accomplish the desired effect: put forth a moderate image that will appeal to a broad range of voters. Now it's the Democrats' turn. I think the Democrats face much more of a risk by putting out another one of these "convention-mercials."

The Republicans had little to lose by turning their convention into the show that it was. Bob Dole was trailing heavily in the polls, so it was time for something big. More importantly, however, whom did they risk offending? The voters and supporters on the far right were certainly the ones snubbed. The fact is, though, that the people on the far right will probably vote for Dole anyway. Maybe some campaign funding might be lost, but in the end, can you see Pat Buchanan or the like voting for Bill Clinton?

The Democrats, on the other hand, already should be counting Bill Clinton's ever-shifting political positions as one of their biggest weaknesses. If the Democratic Convention is perceived as too artificial, it may only make matters worse in the credibility department. Now, top this off with the deluge of declarations that Clinton has made in the last week, ranging from tobacco regulation to the tracking of sex offenders. Things that may each look good taken one at a time could come across as one big patronizing sham.

Perhaps though, even if I am right, there is a factor that may protect the Democrats; if television ratings from the GOP Convention are any indication, most people would rather be watching The Dukes of Hazzard.