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Election 2000
Republican National Convention
Scott Simon's Convention Notebook

Weekened Edition Saturday host Scott Simon is sharing his thoughts with this special online column.

Convention Dispatch
by Scott Simon

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Philadelphia, July 31 -- When I was a 16-year-old protestor attending my first political convention (Chicago, 1968, and I never got any closer to the convention floor than the grass of Grant Park), we used to chant, "The whole world's watching! The whole world's watching!" Now, it's not. The conventions are derided as amounting to little more than large-budget infomercials -- except it's doubtful that as many people will be watching and listening to the proceedings here as will be watching Suzanne Sommer's thighmaster ads.

And yet, an awful lot of people have converged on Philadelphia to make themselves heard. Protestors, as well as politicians; reporters, as well as lobbyists. People who complain that conventions today lack dramatic interest might remind themselves that the conventions of the past that are esteemed today as most spectacular were compelling because popular movements were trying to topple tight-fisted party structures. People flocked to Grant Park in 1968 because they could not accept that the convention was about to nominate a candidate who had not competed in any primaries. Today, that's not only unthinkable -- it's impossible. Nominations can only be won and lost in the primaries. Conventions may be less dramatic only because the process itself has become more democratic. It's hard to be discouraged by that.

I am glad, if sometimes a little astonished, that there are seven members of the news industry here for every one delegate. Even if there is no suspense over who this convention will nominate, and the party platform on which they will run, there is another kind of drama in seeing how the party and its candidates will be packaged and presented to the American public over the next four days. On a range of issues, from gun control to abortion rights, the candidate's words and gestures will be parsed for nuance and significance.

What still gives these conventions dramatic weight is the extraordinary stakes involved. It is simply not possible for any ceremony that confirms the selection of someone who stands a decent chance of becoming the most powerful official in the world (at least, while Bill Gates is still a private citizen) to be boring. The nominees at the conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles are asking the American public to give them the power to appoint judges and generals, and make war or peace. If they want to put on a paid political announcement to make their case every four years, I am glad for the chance to hear and see it at close range, and glad to have the chance to dissect that commercial for you.

Besides: you're only missing a pre-season game on Monday night football. You can always turn the volume down and listen to us.

                        -- Scott Simon

Scott Simon joined NPR in 1977 as chief of its Chicago Bureau. Since then, he has reported from all 50 states, covered presidential campaigns, seven wars, and reported from Central America, Africa, India, the Middle East, and the Caribbean.

From civil wars in Bosnia and El Salvador, to hospital rooms, police stations, and America's backyards, National Public Radio®'s Peabody Award-winning correspondent Scott Simon brings a well-traveled perspective to his role as host of Weekend Edition Saturday.

Simon has a new book, Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan was published in the spring of 2000 by Hyperion.

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