The DNC's three-party system: morning, noon, and night

Dear Democratic Delegate Spouse, When your husband or wife calls from Boston to tell you about all the hard work he or she is doing here on behalf of the Democratic party, be suspicious.

It's true that, during a few daytime hours, your husband or wife has been seen out on the convention floor providing canned pageantry on cue for speeches and other important Democratic party whatnot. We can only appreciate their colorful headgear and inexhaustible lung power which have become a vital contribution to America's two-party system in trying to convince the country's swing voters that they mean business.

But now it's time to remind visiting delegates to stay focused on the serious work before them. What concerns us is what goes on between speeches, when the cameras are turned off, and after the convention closes each night.

In a word: parties. In two words: food consumption. In three words: really loud music.

Add up the political receptions, breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, tea-sippings, or coffee klatches at hotels and pubs all over town and you have enough free buffets to satisfy a summer's worth of cruise-ship customers. Put more succinctly, this place is a bottomless food trough. Delegates will tell you they're here to discuss the education issue "No Child Left Behind," don't be fooled. They're here to make sure no hors d'oeuvres, paté, canoli, or hazelnut Danish are left behind.

Besides, it's too noisy to schmooze.

There are big bands on the plazas, small jazz trios in night clubs, mediocre lounge singers and steel drum combos rockin' out of open-air pubs everywhere. Delegates walk down each street, carrying newspaper printouts of which party is which ("Irish-American Democrats/Plaza Hotel: 8:00 p.m.-12:00 p.m.," or "Congressional Blue Dog Coalition/Roxy 10 p.m.- 2 a.m.")

The only checks and balances are armies of humorless security men who stand shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk, telling delegates to "register before entering."

"Party for George McGovern? I didn't even know he was running." I said to one pair of trunk-necked G-men outside a party at Via Matta, where trays of chocolate covered strawberries were being whisked past patrons. "Register before entering," came their robotic reply.

No one can complain about a certain amount of celebration such as the 50 state delegations each holding their own individual bashes from the New England Aquarium to the Franklin Park Zoo. We're not quibbling with the opening night media bash inside the FleetCenter with Little Richard (singing "Lucille" et al.), the opening reception for governors, a separate one for mayors, another for "Alternative Police and Firefighters."

We'll even allow a little leeway for a drive all the way to Hyannis Port for Sunday's invitation-only clambake with Ted Kennedy because it was a chance for you to rub shoulders and clam grit with the party's big donors.

But let's draw the line at "Pool, Bowling, and Cocktails with Ben Affleck." Chalking a pool cue and recovering a seven-10 split may soothe the soul, but they have little to do with the postconvention bounce Kerry needs.

Long story short: Tell your spouse to pace himself or herself. Try to stay on message. With this many distractions at night and that many free carbs during the day, there is concern that sustained sensory intake might take its toll. By Thursday night, with balloons falling and America watching - when the party nominee needs its delegates most - you may have only a smidgen of oomph for a finger lasso and a barely audible, "whoopee!"

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