People including myself are relieved that the political conventions are over. Two weeks of calculated and scripted hyperbole will leave any sensible person fatigued, even if one ultimately agreed with most of the sentiments being expressed. But there is more to it this time when you look back at what our worries were going into the respective conventions. Dozens of delegates said they were going to Cleveland carrying arms and ammunition. Meanwhile, the event was surrounded by a city where effectively everyone was a victim of the same repressive policies that would be advocated inside the walls. It was a recipe for disaster — but there were no mass shootings. Similarly, in a party that had become synonymous with throwing people out on the street, might a VIP or party official be injured while being ejected? In fact, more than a few journalists were removed from the hall at points, but without injury or spectacle. The worrisome news of a disease outbreak at the convention added an unexpected angle of disaster, with the potential for a dangerous contagion to go national, yet with quick action on a quarantine, the disease was nearly contained within the California delegation. The next week Philadelphia hosted the largest number of demonstrators ever at a formal political event in U.S. history, yet with astute planning, there were no mass arrests. This is a good moment to remember the incredible sums of money put forward by national billionaire donors to buy the last Philadelphia mayoral election. This week might have turned out quite differently had that effort succeeded.
The sigh of relief is in part about the absence of the several disasters that so easily could have occurred. There is some dismay in saying this. Are our expectations of the American political process so lowered that merely not seeing a mass shooting by one of the gun nut delegates is cause for celebration? And yet in reality we did avoid each of these potential disasters. These was not just good luck. A combined and cumulative effort involving thousands of people also had a part in the two relatively peaceful weeks. There is reason to hope that with a continued effort this relative peace could hold right on through November. Yes, the current state of U.S. politics is unexplainable and inexcusable by the standards of just 15 years in the future. In fact, a significant fraction of voters have already made that leap and are trying to explain to us how broken the system is. From their point of view, looking at the events of the past two weeks is agonizing. And they’re right to see it that way. But let’s not lose sight of what just happened.