I Dare Say – Give us our conventions straight (7-24-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (July 24, 1944)



Give us our conventions straight

By Florence Fisher Parry

Am I alone in thinking the radio announcers appropriated entirely too much time reporting the Democratic Convention proceedings?

What the public wanted to hear was the actual goings-on themselves, and not the commentaries of the broadcasters.

There is nothing that provides so much honest interest to the American public as a typical party convention. It provides the biggest circus in our land. All its corn, all its bombast, all its noise and confusion make beautiful music to the ears of us Americans who recognize in this process the very essence of the American system of government.

We love it; we eat it up; we are cheered and comforted by its corn and clutter. We want to hear every pound of the gavel. We want to hear the unlimited roar of the delegates. We want, full blast, the whole din and dither!

We do not need and we do not want interference in our getting all this first-hand, however well-intentioned. We do not need interpretations. We prefer to make our own. We do not want cultivated commentators’ voices bursting in upon our circus, muting its roar so that they may be heard.

After it’s over, yes; or even at discreet and very occasional intervals, yes – let the commentators then be heard. But spare us in future conventions, please, their incessant, persistent, unstoppable, chatter!

Take it away!

Friday night the Democratic Convention put on a wonderful show. No hoss race was as exciting as the neck-and-neck race between Truman and Wallace as they swung around into the home stretch. The roar from the galleries, the bedlam from the floor; the anvil pounding of the gavel; the horse, spent yet still mighty, voices of the delegates’ spokesmen – composed an orchestra of such noise and thunder that its millions of listeners all over the land closed in around their radios gleefully for the kill.

And what happened. Some gabby commentator cut the whole thing down in order that his one inconsequential voice be heard! He couldn’t be shut up. He went on and on, and ruined for millions one of the biggest circuses America has been treated to for a long time!

Every once in a while, this incessant voice would say, “Take it away!” and for a split instant we would cherish the fond expectancy that we would be allowed to hear the whole works again.

But, no! “Take it away” meant that only some other commentator, even more garrulous, would pick up the mike, and the mighty roar of the delegates and the galleries would mute down again, and once more we would be cheated of the chance to share in the Convention Hall excitement.

Now I am not blaming the radio commentators themselves – theirs was a job they were assigned to and they can’t be blamed if they played it to the hilt. Besides that’s a part of their training. Radio abhors a vacuum. The dread nightmare of all broadcasters is a dead spot on the air. This accounts for the awful, incessant chitter-chatter that takes place on all too many radio programs.

But there ought to be a way to save our big national events from this plague, and especially our Republican and Democratic National Conventions!

We were humbly grateful that we were allowed to listen finally to the states’ balloting. It was music to our ears to hear the cracked, hoarse, exhausted, still mighty voices of the various states’ spokesmen rise to the occasion of their brief prominence.

Especially did we revel in the rounded rhetorical periods of the Gentlemen of the South, those magnificent disciples of oratory, who, whatever the crisis, never fail to deliver the rhetorical flourish!

Greatest of all hoss races

We did not begrudge these chivalrous gentlemen of the old school their moment of “grand-eloquence.” The Solid South may not have been quite as solid politically as in other Democratic Conventions, but it was united at least on one score, and that was when it was called upon to answer the roll call.

It rose to a man as to a majestic platform and delivered itself of its statements with a pomp and ceremony that did its chivalrous heritage full justice, and somehow managed to distinguish the assembly in which it stood, by its patent relish of the English language in which it couched its count.

It was wonderful, Friday night, to receive again assurance that the American way still functions in all its faultiness. Health and exuberance abounded in this convention as in all others. And Republicans and Democrats and New Dealers alike sat glued to their radios, drinking in every moment and enjoying the Fracas as the American people will always enjoy any sport that has in it the elements of a good hoss race.