Un-Conventional: High Drama Ahead at Both Parties’ Summer Confabs 

Disproved now are trhoseindications earlier in the year that presidential politics would be played the usual way — with one candidate in each major party developing an early lead, usually after only three or four (and sometimes just two) primary victories, and then gradually pulling away until sometime in mid-March or mid-April, when it would all be over. Everybody, at that point, it was presumed — pundits and public alike — would be settling into the Masters or the NBA finals or some other form of mass entertainment and forgetting about presidential politics until the conventions rolled around.

Typically, of course, the conventions are glittering public events that serve mostly to display a parade of luminaries. For years, they have pretended to be about crucial decisions but have largely been ceremonial — something akin to the Country Music Awards.

But this year, for a variety of reasons, neither party has really settled on a candidate, and, for the first time in something like 40 years, there will be at least one convention where the central issue remains to be decided. That's the Republican Convention in Cleveland, where, to our eyes, at least, eccentric neophyte Donald Trump, who somehow got to be the GOP's frontrunner, has as much chance of getting out of town with his chances intact as the late, lamented Donner family had of getting to the West Coast safe and sound.

Ted Cruz, the ugly-mug, right-wing Senator from Texas, does not impress us so much as an underdog making his move as he does a stalker moving in for the kill. But even if Trump can derail Cruz, House Speaker Paul Ryan looms in the wings, despite his current protestations to the contrary. Ryan, whose entire political philosophy seems to be summed up by the two words "Ayn Rand," did the same routine while courting the House Speakership without seeming to.

And this is just the Republicans. The Democrats, too, as of this writing, still have a contest going. If it weren't for that essentially un-Democratic business of having several hundred establishment types licensed to vote as "super-delegates," balancing out the rude efforts of the people to decide sonething, ol' Bernie Sanders, with his simple and direct message of "End Economic Inequality Now," might actually have a chance. (Gee, maybe he still does, anyhow.)

In any case, for all the wailing, hand-wringing, and gnashing of teeth in the two parties, we pronounce ourselves delighted. Most of us have no actual memory of things being decided in smoke-filled rooms (Heck, most of us don't have much memory of smoke!), but the whole notion of competitive conventions, smokeless or otherwise, strikes us as the soul of romance, the kind of political noir we've been waiting for all our lives.


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