It is not yet clear what issue is going to dominate this convention - national character, leadership, a woman's right to choose, a candidate's religious heritage. But in the estimation of this reporter and some esteemed fourth estate colleagues from foreign countries, it could come down to dcor.
To wit: purple seats. RUBBER purple seats.
"They've chosen a rather tasteless, shiny latex, 'aven't they?" says Martin Lewis, a BBC political commentator who speaks in plummy tones. He's referring to the hometown colors of the L.A. Lakers, whose arena - except for the seats - the Democrats have made over into a lavish convention stage and video wall that makes "The Wizard of Oz" look like a loser from Osh Kosh. Mr. Lewis has nothing against purple, but, although he hails from across the "pond," he knows what doesn't read well on TV.
The gargantuan sets the Democrats have constructed to frame candidates in soft hues highlight flesh tones in ways that bespeak power, authority, initiative.
The intent is clear from words right out of the America2000 press kit.
"The design is full of energy, but at the same time balanced, with a sense of strength and accessibility."
Millions have been spent on an assemblage of metal, fabric, plastic, and wood (covered in water-based, nontoxic paints to preserve the ecosystem) to a very calculated, political end: winning the hearts of all-important - and not-fully-conscious - independent swing voters.
To read the Dems' own literature, it could come down to set design. "By blending innovation and the symbols of patriotism, the Convention stage is in many ways a physical embodiment of the ideals of the Democratic Party and the themes of the 2000 Convention."
Only problem is, someone forgot to cover the purple - 40,000, light-catching, flickering, retractable seats' worth.
Besides being the color of the squashable grape and the not-so-mighty pansy, its first cousins are lavender and puce.
"This just won't do," says Lewis, who has been a color consultant for TV producers. "It severely clashes with the messages they are trying to convey and is more than a tad oogly."
The Democrats' only chance, Lewis and others here feel, is if delegates remain seated. Getting them to do so could be a real test of party unity.
In an age when image, artifice, and message-framing reign supreme, it could come to this. Reporting live from the convention floor, back to you in the studio.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society