News from the Convention?

The noise is deafening at times: the pundits and news media who tell us there is nothing newsworthy about the political conventions which start today. They’re wrong. They, of course, want to use the master narrative of conflict as the gauge of newsworthiness. If there is no conflict – no floor fights, no battle for the vice-presidential spot, no tension between different party factions – then there is no news to report.

I don’t agree. In fact, the typical political conflict – “he said, she said” – usually turns most of us off from politics. It may make good viewing, but it doesn’t address our core concerns or hopes.

So, I happen to be one person who believes the conventions have a lot to tell us – even now, when prominent journalists have called the upcoming political conventions "staged," a "set-piece," an "infomercial," an "empty ritual," and, perhaps the cruelest characterization of all, "little more than a reality show."

I plan to watch the conventions to find out:

•What tone will the convention take – I’m tired of all the Red/Blue division. Will either party try to reach out and give people room to join them, or will they strike a highly-partisan tone, one that causes people to come out fighting and “take their corners”?

•What will they ask us to do – will the conventions pretend to ask people to “give of themselves” through “new social contracts” or “covenants,” but fail to really ask us to do anything significant?

•Will they pander to people or engage them – will the candidates and their proxies auction off the public treasury by “selling” programs and tax cuts to people; or will they level with people about what needs to be done, by whom, and what it really cost?

The planners of each convention had to make explicit choices when it comes to these and other questions. The answers reveal what they value and how they see us. That will tell us about them, their vision, and how they see America.

Throughout this week, I’ll pose more questions and ideas. Then we’ll follow the Republican convention, too. All in all, I think we can learn a great deal from these conventions. Stay tuned.