The Itinerant Conventioneer

An intrepid Monitor reporter traverses the political landscape daily and surfaces to file these dispatches.

The final balloon has dropped, the confetti has been sucked into oversized power vacs, and D2K awaits the verdict of history.

But the early word from knowledgeable observers here already favors the positive. Most testimonies stand in stark contrast to the early naysayers, who held that national political conventions don't matter anymore.

"There has probably never, ever been more hard news concentrated in one place than I have seen here," Mo Rocca, producer of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart " told me. "I actually, personally, myself saw three of four Baldwin brothers."

While the Republicans, two weeks earlier, had put on quite a show of diversity on stage - portraying hordes of Hispanics, blacks, and Asians on camera - the Democrats have shown here they will not easily retire the mantle as America's party of inclusion.

"The fact that we saw not only half-hour sitcom stars but also hour-long drama stars together under the same tent, shows the party's commitment to the downtrodden is as strong as ever," says Rocca.

But there are larger lessons to be gleaned from events here.

"This convention proved that politics is all about getting your message out," says Michael Alex, executive producer of MTV Online. "In the year 2000, it's all about buttons and pins. If you have great pins, you rule. If not, people look at you like you've kicked their children."

The wonders of technology have multiplied a new breed of modern conventioneer: the inveterate cellphone user. Hand in glove with that development, the unchecked proliferation of the "shall-I-get-that-or-should-you?" moment.

"From street demonstrators to delegates in the convention hall, everyone had their own cellphone, and nobody knew when theirs was ringing," says Sarah Spitz, a leading Los Angeles radio producer. "It didn't matter if you were a Democrat, a protester, or a schlub in between, everyone was at the same disadvantage."

Last but not least, the quadrennial rite of US democracy became a catalyst for consciousness-raising, not just among visiting Democratic delegates, but among residents in the city that hosted it.

I'm talking, of course, about drivers' realization that for four straight days, they could speed down nearby freeways with impunity because 99 percent of the state's police were otherwise engaged in a show of force not seen since the invasion of Normandy.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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