By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: The Republican convention and two cultures

I am now in St. Paul, Minn. at the Republican Convention, still commenting for Swedish TV -- the time difference means I appear on the Swedish morning news in the middle of the night, U.S. time. Again, in this post I'm going to stay away from partisan politics and just make some observations about the feel here.

Having been in Denver at the Democratic convention only a few days ago, when I first went on the floor Tuesday afternoon, the contrast was striking. My first, overwhelming impression was: They are so white! In Denver, there were blacks, Hispanics, and to a lesser extent Asians everywhere. In St. Paul, there is a sea of white faces -- also, by appearance, older (especially more people who looked over 60 or even over 70) and more formally dressed (most of the men were wearing suits, except for the Texas delegation, whose members were all in a uniform of blue jeans, bright red shirt, and cowboy hat). There were far, far fewer twenty-somethings than in Denver.

Last week, I commented on the music of the Democratic convention. At least on Tuesday, there was less, and different music in St. Paul. The convention was led off by a 25-minute performance by a very, very soft jazz band led by Al Williams. The sound was somewhere between easy listening and forties big band. The delegates seemed to have less interest in the music than did Democratic delegates, maybe partly because the music was only instrumental, so the audience couldn't sing along.

I am, however, reminded a bit of an old song by the sixties-era satirical singer Tom Lehrer, "Folk Song Army." Singing of the Spanish civil war in the thirties, Lehrer sung: "They may have won all the battles. But we had all the good songs."

Posted on Sep 03, 2008 at 12:10 PM


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