Op-Ed: Notes From The Couch — Conventionally Speaking

Our columnist, Neil Friedman, engages in some “armchair politics.” What armchair would be more appropriate than Archie Bunker’s? Source: ttarasiuk / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: After watching portions of the Republican and Democratic conventions, here are some observations:

Now I can sleep soundly, knowing the incumbents, their opponents and their respective spouses are ensconced in lovey-dovey relationships. Not a vital issue, but we certainly don’t need another candidate like John Edwards.


We know now that Mother Nature doesn’t take sides when it comes to politics. At first, it looked like she was a Democrat as Hurricane Isaac forced Republicans to cancel the first day of their convention. Then, she threatened to rain on President Obama’s planned outdoor acceptance speech in a football stadium, so the activities were relocated inside to a basketball arena.


Just as social media have deeply impacted newspaper sales, it was successful and equally damaging for television, as viewing declined more than 20 percent from four years ago, according to the Nielsen Company, the national ratings service.

Just gotta wonder if those who tuned in to social networks and online, undoubtedly a young demographic, will bother to vote in November.


It’s as plain as the teleprompter from which speakers read that political conventions are as staged as reality television shows. Mature viewers realize that these quadrennial events require behind-the-scenes maneuvering and not a lot of ad-libbing to avoid a loose-lipped speaker’s faux pas that an opponent, not to mention a comedic analysis by Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, would highlight in a humiliating response. After Clint Eastwood’s improvisational soliloquy with a chair, that’s a practical approach.

Addressing conventioneers is preaching to the choir. Every passionate, feel-good speech — regardless of length — is coordinated to stir and arouse the emotions of those in the arena, which looks good on television. I don’t know if “applause” signs and an off-camera cheerleader are used to induce responses at key moments, but it seems like it.

But, neither President Obama nor GOP challenger Mitt Romney gave away too much of their strategies in their speeches. Both were optimistic, though Obama openly conceded that the recovery will continue to move at a snail’s pace — especially with a partisan Congress. Romney mostly talked generalities, with no specific blueprint to perk up the economy.

Not surprisingly, at conventions neither candidate reveals their prescription for change. Voters just have to decide which one sounds the most sincere and feasible.


Just days before the GOP get-together in Tampa, Romney chose Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. Not too much of a surprise, as the Wisconsin Congressman is recognized as one of the most Conservative elected officials in Washington.

Indeed, it was a move to the right, which the Romney camp needed to do to certify his sometimes questionable Conservative credentials. Romney’s hope is that Ryan will seal the deal with the far right wing of the GOP.

And, it certainly repositioned the presidential race, back to where it was four years ago, when Barack Obama and Joe Biden faced John McCain and Sarah Palin.

As a matter of fact, Ryan reminds me of a calmer Palin with male genitalia and more brain cells.


Wasn’t it surprising that only one GOP speaker mentioned George W. Bush, the party’s standard bearer for the first eight years of this century? Of course, the former president’s brother Jeb, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate in 2016, got in a word or two to defend his bro’s administration.

Even more confusing, however, was that flag-waving Republicans never talked about the GIs in Afghanistan or sacrifices our armed forces have made for more than a decade. Very surprising for a party that constantly displays its passionate patriotism on its sleeves — and lapels.

Sometimes it’s more revealing what you say than what you don’t say.


Before Bill Clinton or Sandra Fluke spoke at the DNC’s third night, Ann Coulter, the Barbie doll of the Neo-Con set, reportedly tweeted: “Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage.”

When a follower asked if Fluke was “the most exciting speaker at the DNC tonight,” Coulter responded, “They’re spicing things up with a live abortion on stage!”

Sandra Fluke rocked the house as she spoke eloquently and effectively, and, if she chooses, may have a bright future in politics.

Conversely, Coulter’s future likely includes more obnoxious tirades and self-serving commentaries on Fox News or any media outlet that will help her hawk more books.


Each convention ended with objects dropped on convention delegates. The items were somewhat symbolic of each party.

Republicans dropped thousands of red, white and blue balloons filled, no doubt, with the hot air that came from the mouths from GOP speakers.

Democrats dropped tons of patriotically-colored confetti, which seems to reflect how flaky they’ve been on solving the nation’s problems, even though an obstructionist Congress deserves most of the blame.


After the convention, a party’s nominee usually gets a positive reaction, or bounce, in new polls, but that was not the case for Romney. His numbers in a few polls basically remained the same, which was the first time that happened for a Republican in recent history.

Obama, however, got a small bounce, which he must protect or increase through the debates to maintain his lead over Romney.


Now that the speeches are over and the applause has faded, less than two months remain before the election. Unless Democrats can convert some red states to blue, between now and Election Day, it’s gonna be another close one.

For 12 years, the line in the sand has barely shifted among Democrats and Republicans. Let’s just hope, though, that this election isn’t a dead heat and doesn’t end up in the hands of the Supreme Court again.


The conventions are history and the candidates will now face off in a series of four debates on four different issues, beginning October 3rd. For political junkies and those who pay attention to current events, conventions and debates are must-see TV — and more orchestrated reality television.

In the face of prolonged conflicting positions of Republicans and Democrats, voter indifference is also fostered by frustration over government gridlock and negative campaigns. Despite your apathy, if you’re still undecided on November 6 — vote for the chair.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.


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