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September 10, 2008

The Four Es of the GOP Convention

Kevin E. Dayhoff

I made a concerted effort to arrive early on each of the four days of last week’s Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.


The convention was held in a sports arena retrofitted for the quadrennial gathering of the party faithful for the purposes of nominating a Republican presidential and vice presidential candidate for the upcoming national elections November 4.


The arena is located in St. Paul near the banks of the Mississippi River and it had the appropriate name – Xcel Energy Center.


Everyday, my first stop inside, once I breezed through the elaborate security checkpoints, was the coffee stand wisely located at the entrance.


“Whatta ya having,” asked a friendly well-dressed young lady behind the counter as she flashed a genuine smile.


“I’d like a large IV-drip with room for Geritol.” Coffee was a dear friend at this year’s convention. The days started hours before the 8 o’clock breakfast and – more often than not – ended well past midnight.


I purposely arrived early for a number of reasons. The most important of which was wanting to spend as much time as possible in the vast media sections set up for TV, radio, print and new media – bloggers – and to visit with national media and political personalities.


I also allowed some extra time to get there as the anti-war protesters were continually escalating the violence leveled against the conventioneers – or anything that moved, for that matter. Yes, re-read the previous sentence and soak-up the irony.


The convention arena was a 20-minute walk from my hotel. After gathering a lay of the land, I decided that, at my age, I had no inclination to be adventurous. I used the well-coordinated bus transportation provided by the Minneapolis-St, Paul convention host committee to travel back and forth to the Xcel Center.


One particularly eventful bus ride took about an hour as the heavily armed police officer in the front seat of the bus coordinated, by radio, a circuitous route that avoided all the protesters.


Earlier in the week a number of buses had been damaged. One bus was invaded; and it was reported that several conventioneers were hurt by the “peace protesters.” Go figure.


Nevertheless, by the end of the week, the positive economic impact of the Republican National Convention was estimated to be $148 million in new spending. To choreograph the event, the Minneapolis-St. Paul 2008 host committee put together 10,000 volunteers.


The collision of the operative adjectives that surrounded the events of last week was the four “E’s” – excitement, energy, excellence, and exhaustion. It was part church, baseball, and Super Bowl.


It was part church because the political liturgists were exacting in seeing to it that no detail was overlooked in organizing the complexities of having 45,000 attendees in town for the convention.


The Xcel Center, which served as church sanctuary, is actually a hockey arena which seats approximately 18,500. Of course, the numbers in the arena were swelled by all the seating on the floor. My seat was in the nosebleed section high above the fray which gave me a great birds-eye view of the organized chaos which unfolded every evening for the four days of the convention.


As I looked out on the crowd below, it was daunting to realize that at any given time, there were an equal number of people in various stages of frenzy in the hallways and rooms surrounding the arena.


The constant noise of 45,000 people talking for four days in an echo chamber is hard to put into words. Imagine the noise of a Raven’s or Redskins’ game continuing non-stop for four straight days.


There were endless challenges to overcome in choreographing the convention and it was a marvel to study. Transportation to and from all the hotels to the convention center, media support, technology infrastructure, food, vendors and concessions, and security and safety were only a few of the multitude of organizational complexities that were essentially handled flawlessly.


To top it off, one of the enduring memories of the convention was how nice everyone was in taking care of all these challenges in spite of the long hours and the infrequent unexpectedly difficult conditions.


For example, many of the police officers and volunteers I interviewed told stories of 18-hour shifts, followed by a couple hours of sleep – then a repeat. The overall pleasantness was glued together by a healthy sense of humor. It was impressive to witness the thoughtfulness and teamwork which greeted the constant unexpected.


To augment the convention-as-church analogy, one could not help but notice that the convention was a gathering of the faithful to listen to speeches delivered to the choir. It is part baseball because of the exacting choreography of the proceedings for the television audience. Part Super Bowl because you got to sit in the pews and yell and scream and cheer all the nationally famous players that had come together for the political-religious services.


Just imagine what it would be like if we could yell and cheer in church during the sermon – with the communion wine replaced with Kool-Aid.


For now, I intend on sleeping 24 hours straight with a Geritol IV-drip. I’ll unpack – tomorrow, or maybe even the day after tomorrow.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:



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