A Political Disneyland: Understanding The Excitement Of The Conventions

Photo: Beverly and Pack/BY-NC-SA

Dr. Eugene Alpert has got the bug… the convention bug that is. He arrived recently in Tampa, Florida where the 2012 Republican National Convention will begin at the end of August.

He is not attending as a political activist, but as an educator. Alpert is the Senior Vice President of The Washington Center, an organization that puts on two week courses for college students that coincide with the national conventions. Students arrive a week before the convention for a week of lectures, speakers and small group discussions. Then during the convention, they get a fieldwork placement to watch the action.

“I often say it’s like a political Disneyland. Here we are in Florida, home of many theme parks. This is a political theme park. It’s amazing how the city turns into one big extravaganza over four to five days, and then everything turns back into a pumpkin,” said Alpert.

The “circus” atmosphere is what turns some people off, and yet, Alpert still thinks the national conventions are a great American tradition.

Part of it is what goes on behind the scenes. It’s almost like writing a theme paper. Governor Romney has just chosen his vice president. He has got to put together a convention that tells a story. Just like an ‘A’ paper in an English class, you’ve got to have a consistent theme, a thesis, and beginning, an end and a very solid middle to prove your case. That’s what conventions are.

It’s like interpreting a piece of art, or grading a term paper. If you understand the motivations behind who’s speaking, why they’re speaking, how long they’re speaking, what night they’re speaking, you can learn a lot from that. … And of course they do it for the shot on the last night when the balloons drop.

Youth Radio is gearing up to report from the conventions. Follow us @Youthradio all the way to Tampa and then to Charlotte!


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