The Super Bowls of Politics
The parties’ parties are over. The Republican and Democratic Party conventions have concluded. Beyond the brouhaha over Melania Trump’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech and the leaked emails of the head of the Democratic National Committee, the designation of the candidates for president and vice-president of the U.S. of the two major political parties have become official. Whereas the selection has sometimes taken place during the convention, the presumptive nominees for president and vice president had been done before the conventions, leaving little room for surprise.
And yet, the conventions played out to enormous fanfare. American flags were omnipresent. The pledge of allegiance was an event unto itself. The singing of the national anthem became a contest for who would sing and who could have the most tremulous voice. Delegations praised their states; delegates waved banners, cheered, booed and chanted. Major artists performed. Speakers were rolled out to appeal to potential voters. Pundits gave blow-by-blow descriptions of what was going on. Newspapers proclaimed winners and losers. Speeches were graded, lauded or dismissed.
We have just watched the Super Bowls of politics. Organizers prepared the four-day extravaganzas as coaches prepare their teams for a major sporting event. Compare the speeches to the delegates to the locker room oratory before big games. While we didn’t hear Ronald Reagan’s “Win one for the Gipper,” (in his Hollywood career he played the famous football coach Knute Rockne who implored his Notre Dame players at halftime of the 1928 Army game), we did hear enough of “Trump, Trump, Trump” and “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary,” to understand that we observed the grandest pep rally of them all.
(I can’t resist telling how a great American sportswriter, Paul Zimmerman, used to take bets on how long the singing of the national anthem would take at the Super Bowl.)
The two teams – the Republican and Democrat delegates and those watching on television – were given an emotional high before hitting the campaign trail before the election on November 8. There was, however, little discussion of the particular platform of each party. Rather, attention was on the candidates themselves and the productions surrounding their nominations. Hollywood stars appeared; Hollywood producers helped prepare the short films. The conventions were stage and screen mega productions.
Sports were once merely sports. They then morphed into business and entertainment. Politics has also morphed. It is now bigtime show business – the conventions cost in the neighborhood of $80 million each and the campaigns will be in the billions – with entertainment not far behind. Who gave the best speech? (Michelle?) Which convention was better organized?
Finally, politics has become like sports in that there are only winners and losers, just like the three American national sports football, baseball and basketball. There are no tie games, no consensus. Either the Republicans or Democrats will win it all. Candidates will be judged by their blows (zingers). Journalists will report the campaigns like sports columnists.
What is the game? Win what? The election? That is clear. But beyond that, there is more involved than sports metaphors, pep rallies and entertainment.
The nominations of candidates to be the next president and vice president of the United States has evolved into a public speaking final exam mixed with Broadway extravaganza and major sporting event. And just wait until the fall debates!