After having spent the last two weeks covering two conventions, I think I'm qualified to say this: They're extravagant, over the top, overly scripted, overly rehearsed, and one other thing… vital.
We need them. We need their silly hats. We need their roll call votes, we need Americans of all stripes and all states gathered in one place. We need them to see them and us.
We need their state pride and we need their shameless state plugs.
We need to hear the Des Moines precinct dad yelling at the top of his lungs, "In Iowa, where the corn is as high as an elephant's eye proudly casts its delegates."
We need to hear and see how they got to that vote, and what or who got them to that vote.
We need to see the arm-twisting. Sometimes obvious, lately not.
And we need to see those precious moments when the script goes wrong.
When a roll call turns into a coronation and not a fight at the Democratic convention.
And the number two on the ticket gets better buzz than the number one on the ticket at the Republican convention.
There is much I could complain about. Party officials who keep the dissidents quiet. But have no problem keeping the music obscenely loud.
I'll go past the party officials. Not much I can do about the party music.
And not much they can do about things that happen that aren't part of any script, or any agenda.
Things, moments that stop you. And stun you.
Like the tears of women listening to a once obscure Alaska governor who quietly gave hope.
And an aging veteran struggling to stand and salute a war hero's presence in a room before he says a single word in that room.
Or three die-hard Hillary Clinton supporters who quietly put aside their Hillary hats and donned Obama hats, their eyes welling up, their party proud welling up more.
Or the stocky 13-year-old African-American boy who proudly told this stocky reporter, "I'm going to be up there just like Obama some day."
These are moments you don't see coming. They just come. They just happen.
They don't show up in a program. Or brochure. You don't see them sprayed on silly hats or pre-printed posters.
They just happen.
I guess these things can be expensive and elaborate and over the top, even silly and cliché.
But they are us. With all our warts. And all our extremes.
We could do worse showing all that.
We'd be worse, I think, having none of that.
Silly hats and all.
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