A Memory of a Political Convention
long ago and far away
In the opinion of H. L. Mencken, who didn’t equivocate, “There is something about a national convention that makes it as fascinating as a revival or a hanging.”
I wouldn’t go that far. In my political career, I attended conventions where serious business was done and history was made. The conventions, after all, have a lot to say about the leadership and the direction of the country in the four years after all the balloons have been popped and all the banners have gone into the garbage.
There is much about this year’s conventions that is out of the ordinary. But, then, these are not ordinary times. For a long time now, there has been no mystery about the nominees, for President and Vice-President, of both parties. In the absence of suspense, one watches for what the mood of the conventions tell us about each party.
With no real drama to absorb my attention, I found myself remembering my first experience of political conventions. It was 1948, at the Democratic party’s convention in Philadelphia. My step-grandfather was a Democrat and a U.S. Senator from Texas. So, of course, he was there.
I was seven years old. My family lived in Philadelphia. To include my grandfather, the legendary baseball figure who was known as “Connie Mack.” He owned and managed the Philadelphia Athletics. As a manager, he still holds the record for most career wins.
Well, the convention came to town and I found myself in adult company. And those adults were active – to say the least – in politics.
There is one episode that is embedded in my memory and which I recount in my book Citizen Mack:
In 1948, the Democratic Party held its national convention in Philadelphia. Tom Connally, who was still in the Senate, was in town as a member of the Texas delegation, and there was a luncheon event of some sort. I was there with my parents and brothers and sisters, even though I was very young. Just seven years old. Still, I was generally pretty well behaved and was minding my manners.
But I must have gotten bored—as most kids my age would—by all the polit- ical talk, because at some point, I jumped up out of my chair and shouted, “I’m a Republican. I’m a Republican.”
A total hush fell over that room.
My grandfather looked at me sternly from across the table, pointed to a little Heathkit radio that was sitting on a windowsill, and said, very slowly, “Connie, if you keep that up, I am going to use that radio over there to call the police and have them come over and arrest you.”
I stopped and, of course, he didn’t call the cops. But I did become a Repub- lican. Eventually. And, like him, a United States senator. It was one of those odd and serendipitous little things that seem to happen in this life.