Instead, one has the strange feeling that today's Democratic Party is looping back to the loopy days of, say, 1972 and George McGovern, rather than to the days of moderates Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992.
This was a convention that made a quick tip of the hat to Carter, then a homage to Ted Kennedy, and then a showcase of the Clintons as the commonsensible brains of the party.
Ironically -- or perhaps predictably in politics -- those three legacy families can't stand one another. Carter got the bum's rush Monday night, but then got even when he pointedly reminded his Georgia delegation at a Wednesday breakfast that Ted Kennedy essentially destroyed Carter's reelection in 1980. That's when, after failing to take the nomination away from Carter, Kennedy barely mustered the obligatory dignity to shake then-President Carter's hand on the podium as the convention wound down.
Neither the Carters not the Kennedys are pals with the Clintons. Ted and Caroline helped torpedo Hillary's campaign this year. And Carter declared in a recent interview that every member of his family has supported Obama, except for one, who supported John Edwards. But none went for Hillary.
And poor Obama. The man who has seemed lost in the wilderness for the past month now found himself unable to correctly identify the city from which he spoke via satellite to his wife and children on Monday night.
Things can turn on a dime, of course. As the Democrats were busy trying to appear unified and on message this past week, anxious Republicans were fearfully eyeing the possibility of a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast just when their own nominating extravaganza was preparing to gas up its first red balloons.
Another fine performance by the Bush administration like the one in response to Katrina, and it will probably make no difference how badly the first nights of the Democratic convention went. The Democrats could simply stand on the sidelines and wait for victory in November.
It's going to take a miracle of some kind if Obama is going to be able to transform the early events of the 2008 Democratic convention into anything more than another reason to stop holding these things altogether. Especially if they boost the opposition party in the polls.
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