Let us all take deep breaths now as the overblown, media-magnified import of national political conventions turns our TV screens into playgrounds of frenzied pixels for the next 11 days.
These two circuses would be the quadrennial Olympics of Blather except one of these nominees will become the most powerful person in the world next January.
There is, however, a way to witness and absorb these sometimes historic events plus countless sideshows with intelligence, calm, insights and without the kind of pundit blovado that so often characterizes cable talk.
It’s called C-SPAN. You’ve heard of it, of course. Perhaps you watched briefly as Mary of Nebraska on the Republican line shared her thoughts on an issue of the day. And veteran host Steve Scully smoothly re-crafted her statement into a question for the guest sharing the desk.
OK, I’ll say it flat-out because none of those unassuming folks will: C-SPAN is beyond question an under-appreciated national treasure that at great expense brings within our reach for free virtually all important political events. And some not so important perhaps, but revealing of the nation’s political fabric, like a candidate’s exchange with diners or picnickers. Plus historical series on First Ladies and more.
“We are the real ‘no spin’ zone,'” says Scully. “Nowhere else can you have a front row seat to campaign history, because our focus is not the talking heads or spin, but rather the events themselves.”
For all the griping about cable TV, we owe that industry and founder Brian Lamb deep thanks for funding this 30-year-old broadcast bastion of relentless calm. You know, a little peaceful talk isn’t a bad thing in this tumultuous election cycle.
C-SPAN is at the Republican National Convention on Lake Erie with 15 cameras transmitting to America’s eyes and ears every single second of the proceedings, as it will next week for the Democrats’ shindig in Philadelphia. And as it has for every single second of every national political convention since 1984.
What will we see this week, besides predictable balloons? Political conventions have been an American staple since 1831 when the Anti-Masons, the country’s first third-party, gathered in Baltimore and inexplicably nominated a former Mason.
As that HotAir fan Andrew Malcolm wrote last weekend in the Sacramento Bee, conventions have seen war protests and party fractures and phony celebrations. Democrats hold the duration record from 1924, picking John Davis after 103 ballots over 15 days. That’s worse than a Rachel Maddow marathon and Davis lost anyway to Calvin Coolidge, who was nominated in — oh, look! — Cleveland, just down the street from this year’s Quicken Loans Arena.
C-SPAN plays to Americans’ innate intelligence, largely leaving to individual viewers the decision on winners and losers. The skirts may not be as short as some networks. The pontificators are less puffed-up. And the hype is blessedly absent.
C-SPAN’s co-president Susan Swain adds: “For most networks, the convention provides a backdrop for their anchors and panels of analysts. We seek to provide an alternative, believing there’s value for the politically-interested in seeing things for themselves.”
But wait! There’s more. The conventions are also streamed live on C-SPAN.org and C-SPAN Radio. And the network will have cameras all over Cleveland (and Philadelphia) for features, person-on-the-street stuff and delegation sessions.
This year every minute will be immediately catalogued and archived online in C-SPAN’s impressive Video Library, a priceless resource. Want to see Hillary Clinton testify before Congress on HillaryCare in 1993? Or one of my faves, Sarah Palin’s debut convention speech in 2008?
It’s an online collection of everything that’s ever been on C-SPAN searchable and with transcripts. You can make your own edited videos or grab one somebody else edited. Do you think maybe the Trump and Clinton staffs are combing those files for damaging quotes?