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More To Convention Than Meets The Eye For Involvement Convention Delegates Shape Parties’ Agendas.

Fri., Aug. 16, 1996

All the Republicans you saw on television this week were pro-choice.

Not about abortion, maybe, but about involvement. All of them have chosen the arduous work of citizenship.

So have the Democrats who get the spotlight week after next. So are the enlistees in Ross Perot’s Reform Party, and Libertarians, and Greens.

Such people are indispensable foot soldiers in the cause of popular self-government. Some are public dignitaries; most aren’t.

But all share the spirit Thomas Jefferson invoked when he said the change from despotism to liberty wouldn’t be achieved from a feather bed. The activists who attend caucuses and conventions in their neighborhoods, counties and states won’t be caught lying about in any feather bed.

They have beliefs and they rise before dawn to fight for them. Collectively they shape the agenda others react to. They raise the issues and debate the points that reveal public concerns. Their conclusions give shape to party identities that become reference points for voters and public officials alike.

Every four years a few of them who work especially hard and win their peers’ respect get the honor of being sent, at their own expense, to their party’s national convention.

To much of the public the convention is what they see on TV: a backdrop of bunting for an operetta of sound-alike speeches and the ritualistic anointing of a nominee. When the cameras turn off, so does the public.

For the participants, television can’t capture all the work of a convention and what led up to it. And when the speeches and nominations and platforms and resolutions are done, they go home - energized - to stuff envelopes, ring doorbells, hand out brochures and speak up for candidates and causes they admire.

They know the process that began in their precinct meeting places must be sustained through the election - and then begin anew.

Sadly, few of us have the stamina to be round-the-clock participants. We content ourselves with voting regularly, following the news, attending an occasional issues forum if we aren’t too busy.

Lucky for us that a dedicated few shoulder this civic duty and that they have an arena, including national political conventions, that lets them do it with both continuity and conviction.

, DataTimes MEMO: See opposing view under the headline: Conventions have lost sight of purpose

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, COLUMN - From both sides CREDIT = Doug Floyd/For the editorial board

See opposing view under the headline: Conventions have lost sight of purpose

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, COLUMN - From both sides CREDIT = Doug Floyd/For the editorial board



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