Sutherland: Republican Convention Fever Sweeps Past KC


You win some, you lose some…

“For there is something about a national convention that makes it as fascinating as a revival or a hanging.  It is vulgar.  It is stupid.  It is tedious; it is hard upon both the higher cerebral centers and the gluteus maximus, and yet it is somehow charming.  One sits through long sessions wishing heartily that all the delegators and alternates were dead and in hell and then there comes a show so gaudy and hilarious, so melodramatic and obscene, so unimaginably exhilarating and preposterous that one lives a gorgeous year in an hour.”

These words, by The Sage of Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun’s immortal H.L. Mencken, were written about the 1924 Democratic presidential convention. Taking place in New York, in sweltering heat in July of that year, it went on for 16 days and took 103 ballots to produce a (losing) nominee.

The last time a party’s presidential nomination was decided on the convention floor was in 1976 here in Kansas City.

Ronald Reagan and incumbent Gerald Ford had battled it out in a series of inclusive primaries and state caucuses.  Both sides arrived at Kemper Arena a few votes shy of the majority needed for a first ballot victory but each was convinced they would prevail.

I was a member of the Kansas delegation, elected at the Douglas County caucus, a selection that had to be ratified by the State Convention.  I was also a delegate to the 1996 convention in San Diego, where Bob Dole was nominated.

clinton1I helped with the selection of novelist Mark Helprin, a friend of mine, as Dole’s speech writer.  Dole’s acceptance speech was hailed as “majestic and soaring” by no less than the New York Times, not noted for fulsome praise of GOP campaigns.  I remember watching the tracking poll numbers later that night and we actually caught up with Bill Clinton for a few brief, shining moments!  (Unfortunately the rest of the campaign was down hill!)

I was also a delegate to the Republic Convention in Philadelphia in 2000, which had a happier ultimate result, i.e. the election of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  (That year I spent a lot of time in the Philip Morris hospitality suite, a unique feature of Republican conventions!)

Kansas City Mayor Sly JamesAs a grizzled veteran of three national political conventions, let me make a few observations.  Generally, the conventions themselves have declined in importance.  This is reflected by how their length has been cut back.  It used to be that delegates came in to a convention city on a Sunday and left the following Sunday.

Now the conventions have been cut to three or four days, with a lot of pressure to cut them back to two days.  The reason is that the primary schedules are front-loaded, i.e. the Iowa caucuses, and the New Hampshire and Florida primaries have been moved up earlier and earlier.  It’s rare for the nomination in either party to only be resolved in June’s Super Tuesday of big state primaries, as it was until the 1980’s, let alone to have to go to the July or August conventions.

The network television coverage, which was always “gavel-to-gavel,” when I was growing up, has been cut back accordingly.  (The other factor is the decline in importance of national party platforms.  No one gets excited anymore about what “plank” is or is not included.)

Senators Call For Passage Of Military Justice Improvement ActThe main function of the two major parties national convention now is to; 1) broadcast the presidential nominee’s acceptance speech, 2) serve as a vehicle for the airing of propaganda films promoting the world view of that particular party.  (The 1992 Clinton biopic, “The Man from Hope”,was the masterpiece of this genre.)  That and pump up the sales tax revenues of the host city.

Leawood mayor Peggy Dunn shook the tambourine as head honcho of the committee to raise the $50 million it would take to bring the GOP to town.  KC Mayor Sly James belted out the KC Jazz favorites (which he is uniquely qualified to do as the only former Husch, Blackwell partner who can look and sound like Muddy Waters)

Hey, it was fun while it lasted!
This entry was posted in Dwight D. Sutherland, Jr.. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Sutherland: Republican Convention Fever Sweeps Past KC

  1. Orphan of the Road says:

    I sometimes think the smoke-filled back room deals were not so bad when compared to today’s.

    If Ambrose Bierce were alive today what would he have to say of Conservatives and their policies?

    A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.
    H. L. Mencken

  2. Nick says:

    “I was also a delegate to the Republic Convention in Philadelphia in 2000, which had a happier ultimate result, i.e. the election of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney”


    • Dwight D. Sutherland, Jr. says:

      I was afraid I wouldn’t goad you enough if I just said the “happier result”was Bush’s victory. I needed to add Cheney’s name as the Anti-Christ of progressives to really get the juices flowing and (guess what?) it worked!

  3. rkcal says:

    Oh, the Republican Convention HAS to end up in Dallas. In Texas. With open-carry laws. Now, I’ll tune in for that.

    • the dude says:

      With a celebratory 21 gun Texas-style gun salute to close out the proceedings with multiple attendees receiving GSWs.

      • John Altevogt says:

        Texas only allows open carry with rifles not pistols. Kansas is vastly ahead of Texas on 2nd AMendment issues. That said, one of the downsides of the convention is that it is sealed off into a little entity all its own, tieing up traffic and generally being a pain in the ass. I guarantee you no weapons not carried by LE will be inside that perimeter.

        • the dude says:

          If only you could Johnny boy, if only you could open carry weapons where they are desperately needed the most- the state houses and political conventions.
          A man can only dream…

  4. admin says:

    Did anybody here – with the possible exception of a few folks at the Star – really think KC was ever in this thing?

    • rkcal says:

      Heck no. Not only does it lack any destination appeal, but there’s no strategic value. Texas makes sense; it’s the heart of GOP/Teabagger nuttiness; Ohio is an important swing state, but Cleveland suffers the same lack of sex appeal that KC does. I’m surprised that Denver didn’t make the cut. Maybe all that legal weed scared ’em.

      • admin says:

        Dead on, rkcal

        • Nick says:

          This was merely i.) a PR ploy on the part of Mayor James in an effort to ii.) make a “case” for both a new (taxpayer subsidized) downtown hotel and his touristy streetcar…

          Will be interesting to see what happens later this year when his streetcar plans are squashed by the city’s voters, don’t you think?

    • the dude says:

      HELL NO. Besides the lapdog, cheerleader sellouts at Der Star I am sure sly dog and his cronies knew they had zero chance of landing the gig.

      • admin says:

        Not after they screwed that woman over who did all the heavy lifting early on before they bumped her and went good old boy

    • John Altevogt says:

      There was a wonderful picture either on a blog, or in Der Sturmer from south of the arena on Grand and virtually every building there is empty except for a titty bar and a cigar bar. Not exactly enticing for thousands of delegates. Anyone who saw that picture knew that KC would not be getting the convention.

  5. harley says:

    nohearne…kc was never in the running. Only the coke brothers pushed this.
    and look what happened.
    won’t make any difference.
    10/10 taxi has reserved all their available vehicles to carry the freaking clowns
    running for the republican nomination for the 3 day convention.
    nothing funnier than seeing these worthless money grubbing clowns climb out
    of the funny looking cabs.
    won’t make any difference. southy can write another gettsyburg address for the
    nominee or make a film that shows these freaking idiots changing their
    minds on every issue. Bring in the t party and the kkk and the coke brothers
    because this convention will be more of a funeral than a celebration.
    the repubs are going down big time. The demos are too heavily against
    the repubs ever being a national party again.
    You can get hearne…wislun…smithy…southy…chucles the sad clown/
    expat and the rest of the over the hill seniors together and that’s about
    what this convention will look like.
    a mess of old/outdated/senile/demented/war mongering/old washed up
    white guys drinking ensure to stay awake during the show tring to lie
    their way to a getting 40% of the vote with the lies and deaths they
    forced on America for 30 years. Kc doesn’t need them. Old gu7s like
    these only spend money on scooters (free from the government)…diabetes
    supplies (free from the government) and old western movies starring
    john wayne ,
    time has changed…the old guys are being replaced in 2020.

    • chuck says:

      Harley has gaduated from just tossing sh*t at people from his tire swing in the zoo, to coming over in front of the glass and lapping up his own puke in front of the kids.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      KOCH brothers, Harlis, KOCH brothers. Could you get SOMETHING write at least? God youre such a moron.

      • mark smith says:

        Harley is the great uniter. No matter everyones political , religious, or ethical belief system, we all come together in perfect harmony, like an old time Coke commercial, not to be confused with Harleys “coke” brothers…..Harley is nuttier than a payday bar. Id love to meet him in person, preferably in a dark alley sans witnesses.

  6. vincent vega says:

    If Harley is an example of the crowd he claims to be “taking over” the country….get me a one-way ticket to The Isle of Wight….lord have mercy!

  7. John Altevogt says:

    Yes, we are all one when it comes to harley. I almost burst out into a chorus of we are the world whenever i see his name know that all and sundry regardless ideology, age, or any aother characteristic will be uniformly against this idiot.

  8. Stomper says:

    Gosh, I hate to break up the “Kumbaya” that Harley has brought us to here but I wanted to thank Dwight for the convention offering and ask him his thoughts on a 1976 GOP convention related question. I heard a little rumblings of this from the New York delegation side, per my offering on the convention, but Dwight, being an actual delegate from the Kansas side, would have better insight.

    Ford asked Rockefeller to step aside as VP going into the 76 election, mainly because he was far too liberal and Reagan could use that against him. Actually Reagan hurt himself a little by picking Schweiker ( a bit of a liberal himself) but he had to shake things up at the convention. He even tried to force Ford to name his running mate early as well but lost on a pretty close vote. The NY delegation was initially a little peeved that their guy Nelson got dumped but Rocky was enough of a team player to smooth things over and deliver NY to Ford. My question Dwight, is to get your thoughts on the behind the scenes activity when our Sunflower State brother, Bob Dole, got added to the ticket. You must have some good stories to tell about what went on behind closed doors with the Kansas delegation when that was going down.

    Thanks again for your offering.

    • Dwight Sutherland says:

      Speaking for myself as a fiery Reaganite,the real problem was not Nelson Rockefeller. It was Gerald Ford telling everyone in the national press corps when he became president that he was repudiating everything he’d stood for in his twenty-five plus years in Congress(“That was just for Grand Rapids!”) Even Barry Goldwater,who called me to try to get me to switch my vote to Ford at the last minute( a little secret,Reagan and Goldwater didn’t like each other personally!),admitted this was disappointing. As part of the”Ev(erett Dirksen) & Gerry Show”,he could hardly be accused of a lack of pragmatism. As you may recall Everett Dirksen,as Republican leader in the Senate and the senior senator from Illinois,never let his ideology get in the way of wheeling and dealing, nor did Ford in the House. It’s the same mistake McCain made,sucking up to the liberal press by abandoning long held principles does you little good in the end. Dole was picked as a last minute sop to the conservatives the night Ford won.(Reagan had indicated that he,Dole,would be acceptable.) The upside for entertainment value in Rocky being dumped was that he arrived drunk at Kemper and stayed that way throughout. (I recall him tossing popcorn over his head and trying to catch it in his mouth with his head tilted back. He also tore the delegation phone line out after snatching it from the hands of the Reagan leader in the New York delegation,a gentleman from Brooklyn named George Clark. Niall Ferguson,the Scottish historian, asked me if his research was correct, that there was much more louche behavior at American political conventions in the past. I told him(he was here for the rededication of the Liberty Memorial a few years ago) that he was right! I wish there was more intrigue to the Dole selection but it was pretty much an ad hoc,spur of the moment thing.

Comments are closed.