I met Chris Suellentrop as we both came through security checkpoints together on Monday and were both held up by colleagues having difficulty with the metal detectors. That’s how I know Chris actually attended the Republican convention; he’s a nice guy and chatted us up for a few minutes while we waited. Because if I had to rely on his reporting to confirm his attendance, I’d have to assume him to be a no-show.
In Slate today, Chris writes about a lack of enthusiasm among Republican delegates that has managed to escape my notice:
One of the most striking things about watching the Republican National Convention from inside Madison Square Garden has been the lack of enthusiasm among the delegates on the floor. When they formally, and unanimously, nominated George W. Bush as their party’s presidential nominee Wednesday at the conclusion of the roll call of the states, the delegates failed to muster much applause for their action. “We can do better than that,” complained Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele from the podium. “Come on now, bring it on for the president.” The delegates dutifully applauded some more, but they still weren’t very loud, and Steele still seemed disappointed.
From this experience, Suellentrop builds an entire analysis that the GOP has no real enthusiasm for George Bush and that the only thing holding this convention together is a dislike of John Kerry that outweighs this supposed ennui for Bush. Suellentrop’s article shows the inherent problems of forming an opinion based on one data point.
First, I can tell you from being down here and sitting among the delegates and their alternates for two evenings that their enthusiasm borders on fanaticism. They stomp, scream, shout, wave signs, dance, and in all possible ways remind me of multi-level marketing motivational meetings. The notion that a poor response for a nomination during a second-tier timeframe of the convention indicates an erosion of support underscores a certain disconnection from reality that Slate often reflects.
Whenever a keynote speaker delivers a speech, the delegates remain focused and enthusiastic. During the lesser events — and the mechanics of the nomination itself definitely qualifies, since Bush ran unopposed for the spot — delegates do what they do at almost every other moment. They network, they schmooze, they run into old friends and exchange stories from the political wars. All due respect to Lt. Governor Steele, but saying “Aye” to an unopposed motion does not take a lot of effort or attention.
I took the night off from Madison Square Garden last night, but I’d guess that Suellentrop has taken most of the convention off based on this analysis. Slate readers should know that the Republican delegates have more than enough enthusiasm to make up for Suellentrop’s lack of attention.