According to a Gallup Poll, most Democrats want the primary race between senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to continue. However, nervous Nellies in the Democrat leadership remain nervous. Huge beads of sweat continue to pour from party leader Howard Dean’s forehead, and Chris Dodd continues to hover between strangling Hillary and smooching her.
The longer the primary goes on, Dodd said, the more committed people become. Better to cut the thing off while people are yet malleable: "The problem as this thing goes further down the pike is that your supporters, the intensity, increases. Your loyalty deepens. Your feelings about the other side deepen. ... The question is really whether these other folks out there, who have really invested a great deal of their lives in this effort for the last two years, are going to be willing to sort of pat each other on the back and go charging off for eight weeks."
The tingling at the back of the neck that every genuine reporter and political commentator now feels is caused by the prospect of a brokered convention, a real bang up, cigar smoke and bunting filled, national convention in which selected delegates – the real tribunes of the people – decide who will be their leader in the general election.
The ghost of Henry Mencken, who covered all national conventions for about fifty years and whose reports are high political literature, is twisting in his grave, anxious to be in the maw of one more national buffoon fest, very likely the most exciting convention of the last 50 years.
Mencken himself took conventions, to quote a phrase of Mark Twain’s, “with a ton of salt.” They were exciting, both to him and to the American public, because they represented a distinctively America throw of the dice.
A reporter, once peering through Mencken’s window late at night after a rally, saw him pounding out copy in his hotel room: “He would type a few sentences, read them, slap his thigh, toss his head back, and roar with laughter. Then he would type some more lines, guffaw, and so on until the end of the article.”
Perhaps he was typing this: “The Liberals have many tails, and chase them all.”
Or he might have been laughing at the usual American notion of liberty: “The fact is that liberty, in any true sense, is a concept that lies quite beyond the reach of the inferior man's mind. He can imagine and even esteem, in his way, certain false forms of liberty - for example, the right to choose between two political mountebanks, and to yell for the more obviously dishonest - but the reality is incomprehensible to him. And no wonder, for genuine liberty demands of its votaries a quality he lacks completely, and that is courage. The man who loves it must be willing to fight for it; blood, said Jefferson, is its natural manure. More, he must be able to endure it - an even more arduous business. Liberty means self-reliance, it means resolution, it means the capacity for doing without.”
Or at the resilience of most politicians: “It is [a politician's] business to get and hold his job at all costs. If he can hold it by lying, he will hold it by lying; if lying peters out, he will try to hold it by embracing new truths. His ear is ever close to the ground.”
Or at the typical liberal's over-generous estimation of the nature of government itself: “[Government] is apprehended, not as a committee of citizens chosen to carry on the communal business of the whole population, but as a separate and autonomous corporation, mainly devoted to exploiting the population for the benefit of its own members. .... When a private citizen is robbed, a worthy man is deprived of the fruits of his industry and thrift; when the government is robbed, the worst that happens is that certain rogues and loafers have less money to play with than they had before.”
The pity of it is that if there were a brokered Democrat national convention, there would be in the hall no one like Mencken to report on it, no one large-minded enough. The purchase price of courage, for most reporters, is too dear:“Life may not be exactly pleasant, but it is at least not dull. Heave yourself into Hell today, and you may miss, tomorrow or next day, another Scopes trial, or another War to End War, or perchance a rich and buxom widow with all her first husband's clothes. There are always more Hardings hatching. I advocate hanging on as long as possible.”