With choreographed conventions, is something lost?
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON (AP) — As Chris Christie's moment at the microphone neared, delegates to the Republican National Convention were atwitter at the chance to hear the New Jersey governor speak. After all, who knew what might happen? "He doesn't seem to have a filter," said David Shimkin, a delegate from New York.
But the famously freewheeling Christie did in fact have filters: He used a teleprompter, and he read from a speech that has been vetted and approved.
Americans hunger for authenticity — or, at least, say that they do. The explosion of reality TV is testament to that desire for the unscripted moment (even if that unscripted moment is, well, scripted). So the slick choreography of the modern political convention, while understandable, also seems odd. And, some say, it's actually counterproductive to what the parties say they want to accomplish: generate passion that translates into votes.
"This regard for order, this insistence on order, it's just weird," says Richard Bensel, a professor of American politics at Cornell University.
It's that need to control the message and the messengers that led Texas Congressman Ron Paul to hold his own alternative rally Sunday in Tampa, Fla., drawing a crowd of thousands. "It's exactly what the Republican Party should have wanted — real spirit, real emotion," Bensel says. "That enthusiasm shouldn't be offstage. It shouldn't be in an independent rally."
But it's the way things work these days. And Robert Lehrman, who was Vice President Al Gore's chief speech writer for three years, says that if he were GOP nominee Mitt Romney, he would insist on an orderly convention.
Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
"You're trying to show a unified, strong party that represents your views," says Lehrman, author of the 2009 book "The Political Speechwriter's Companion." ''And to have those kinds of debates doesn't help the campaign."
"Used to be 30 years ago, you had platform fights, and they would come from the floor and be debated," he says. "Now, they had some platform stuff on CSPAN, where 30,000 people watch it. But 30 million people have no idea about those things."