Save for the lack of scheduled appearances by Valerie
Bertinelli, Tiffani Thiessen or Jennie Garth, over the course of the next two
weeks America will be treated to two of the best-funded Lifetime miniseries of
all time. Featuring exotic settings; heroes and villains a-plenty; a
family dynasty forever shattered; and production values that would shame even
Steven Bochco (whose involvement in "Cop Rock" and the
upcoming "Raising the Bar"
has amply demonstrated his abject lack of shame), the Democratic and Republican
National Conventions rival even the sturm and drang of "She
Fought Alone" – one of the finest of the True Stories Collection of TV
movies. Add to that a collection of flawed characters blending a Jamba
Juice-like smoothie of half-truths, distortions, and skewed viewpoints stemming
from a profound disconnect from anything even faintly resembling the reality of
the average American lifestyle, and you’ve got some damn good TV – not to
mention impeccable cover for a gaping loophole in campaign finance law.
Witness, if you will, the window-dressing that is the pomp
and circumstance of the nightly speaker lineups; the concern over Hillary and
her PUMAs’ wailing at the gates about the disastrous hijacking of democracy
that has put a presumptive dynasty on the outside looking in, and the thousands
of unwashed protesters clamoring for attention in St.
Paul’s newest stockyard, located conveniently nearby the Xcel Center. Then
look deeper at the Convention Committees, which, unlike the candidates
themselves, can accept virtually unlimited donations of cash and services from
private citizens and even corporations. And these deep-pocketed entities get a
significant return on their donations. In addition to sweetly scented tax
write-off, the complexity of which would arouse Ben Stein far more than
well-hydrated eyes ever could, they are offered that most precious of
commodities in the political world – access.
Wednesday’s events, for example, include a CH2M Hill sponsored concert featuring
Willie Nelson, a donor briefing and reception at Ellie Caulkins Opera House,
and an "AT&T Luncheon for Delegates from Western States" just to name a
few. And should the guest list for these events happen to fall into an
enterprisingly cynical blogger’s hands, it just might happen to include some of
the top officials from the Democratic party, influential members of the Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, who handle telecommunications
issues, and any number of other elected officials who may or may not play a
role in potential legislation affecting these companies’ bottom lines.
Once upon a time – most likely in an alternate reality where
Hillary Clinton’s pastel pantsuits whip crowds into frothing
lust-fueled frenzies the likes of which our world has never borne witness to
– the conventions were a place where party business took place and attendees
engaged in true debate and dialogue. Now, in Denver the intent is to bring the
hordes of malcontents that make up the Democratic party into line, poisoning
the PUMAs with love, understanding and the implied threat of the country’s
completely unlubricated buggering come November, should they not fall in line.
In Saint Paul, the Republicans simply want to emphasize how much more buggering
there will be if the Democrats regain the White House. And in both cases, the
aim is to quash debate and dissention. And either way, we’re the ones who get
So we watch and listen, strangely drawn to our TVs and
radios by the anemic oration of political luminaries like John Kerry and
Congressman Robert Wexler, fascinated by the eight part melodrama playing out
in America’s heartland – the conflict between PUMA and party, McCain’s one-time
maverick status and his new love for the party politick. It’s all too easy to
get distracted by the stagecraft and bright lights, forgetting for the moment
the money pouring through the cracks in the campaign finance system that make
this grand display possible. And what’s worse – just what that money may be
saying over black truffle risotto and foie gras on toast points to the
representatives who supposedly do the people’s work.