No one casts a vote for first children or first lady, but Laura Bush beat out Teresa Heinz Kerry for the easier-to-like award. Nobody in the boiler room has to worry about what will come out of her mouth when she is put behind the podium. For a woman who promised to marry George Bush if only he would promise never to ask her to make a political speech, she has become a natural. She moved away from the domestic issues she holds dear as Laura-the-librarian and emphasized foreign policy as the most important issue for families: "George's work to protect our country and defeat terror so that all children can grow up in a more peaceful world."
Zell Miller, the rogue Democrat, won the Oscar for providing serious diversity. He remained a Democrat when lots of his contemporaries moved out of the party and became Republicans for Ronald Reagan. He's determined not to give up the label he was born with, but he has finally given up waiting for Godot, or even for Scoop Jackson. "What has happened to the party I've spent my life working in?" he asked. "I can remember when Democrats believed that it was the duty of America to fight for freedom over tyranny."
Not everyone at the convention was happy to be rallying in the belly of the beast. But the liberals who own New York may be showing their age, even as a countercultural avant-garde is trying to emerge. Scott LoBaido had protested the painting of the Virgin Mary plastered with elephant dung when it was exhibited several years ago at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. He finally found a gallery south of the site of the World Trade Center just in time for the convention. One of his pieces depicts that American flag, an image popular in another artistic context in the '60s. LoBaido depicts the flag with a match close by, captioned: "Don't Even Think About it."
You could even find a few punk Republicans. They call themselves "gonzo conservatives," and they groove on the music of Bad Brains and the Sex Pistols, regarding the message of punk as one of "think for yourself." They link accountability, responsibility and self-reliance to hipness.
Republicans, like most grown-ups, understand that there was a time to be young and irresponsible. That time has come and gone, but you don't have to apologize for remembering.