Committee Of Correspondence

The Republican Convention

Herb Stein
6:53 a.m.  Friday  8/12/96
Now we come to the Oscars, the Super Bowl, the Olympics of American politics. Phase One is the Republican National Convention, starting today. Phase Two will the Democratic National Convention, starting in two weeks. There was a time when important things were decided at conventions, or in hotel rooms near conventions. That seems unlikely to happen in 1996. This year’s conventions are intended primarily to serve three functions: A. To persuade the public to support the party’s candidates. B. To entertain the public, in order to keep the public watching the persuasion. C. To entertain the party faithful in attendance, to reward them for their past efforts, and inspire them to future efforts. We have invited four well-qualified observers to comment on the Republican convention as it proceeds this week. They may discuss the convention under the head of politics, or entertainment, or commerce, or social notes from all over, or under whatever other head they consider appropriate. It may be helpful to set the stage by considering the preliminaries that occurred in the week of Aug. 5–the platform decisions and the naming of the vice presidential candidate. How will those decisions affect the likely success of the convention in presenting an attractive face to the American public? Would any of the panelists answer this question: What is the meaning of having a minority appendix to the platform? Does it change our expectation of what any candidate would do if elected? Is Bob Dole any less in favor of a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion because there is a minority appendix opposing such an amendment? Would Sen. Olympia Snowe be any less opposed to such an amendment if there were no minority appendix? Our panelists are:
  • Karlyn Keene Bowman, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
  • Alan Brinkley, professor of 20th-century American history at Columbia University
  • Christopher Hitchens, columnist for The Nation.
  • Nelson W. Polsby, professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley.