If thousands of people cheer in an arena, does it mean the party is energized?

In my hit with Matthew Rainnie this morning, he asked me whether (to paraphrase) “the Democratic party was energized” as it has been characterized in the national media.

All respect to Matt, but that’s an absurd question.

An absurd question because it assumes that any one person (or, indeed, any group of people) can get their finger on the pulse of something as amorphous as a political party.

And an absurd question, even more, because it’s the kind of question that’s being inanely expounded upon 1,000 times a day here:

  • But it served to cement the loyalties of a Democratic Party that now appears energized and determined to unite in a common effort to replace President George W. Bush with Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.” (United Press International)
  • The Democratic Party is more unified and energized going into this convention than it has ever been.” (CBS News)
  • For the first time in decades, the party is unified and energized behind its nominees…” (Roll Call)
  • Democrats are looking to their keynote speaker, Obama, to energize the base, as former President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, did Monday night.” (CBS 4 Denver)
  • Democrats, energized by their last first lady…” (San Francisco Chronicle)

Indeed a Google News search for “democratic party energized” at this hour shows 742 results.

As far as I can determine, the meter used to measure this “energy” is the “mood of the delegates” here at the Fleet Center. Al Gore says something, people clap and cheer, party is energized. Bill Clinton delivers a “rousing speech,” crowd “goes wild,” party energized.

No doubt.

But it’s just people clapping and hooting in an arena. Does it really mean anything? There are 63 million registered Democrats in this country (reference). Do the people cheering for Ted Kennedy in this room as I write this tell us anything about those people and how they will vote? Does it tell us if they are energized?

I fear this is all just a Mobius loop. A lie, you might say. A lie that feeds itself and becomes truth.

This doesn’t mean anything, really, because we all play along. I’m sitting here in the arena, there’s loud music blasting out of the PA and, hell, I’m feeling energized. Maybe I should vote for John Kerry.


al o'neill's picture
al o'neill on July 28, 2004 - 01:49 Permalink

I think if you wanted to tell if the crowd was ‘energized’, at least more than usual, ask a few delegates if this is the first time they became so involved in an election, and if so why? I’m presupposing the answer, perhaps, that the actions of this administration have caused a lot of people to wake up and get involved, but it would be nice to hear from a few of those people instead of general reads of the crowd that could be based on nothing more than what everyone else is saying.

oliver's picture
oliver on July 28, 2004 - 02:03 Permalink

Just look for the chi, Peter. Chi divided by enneagram number equals the amount of energization in any one delegate. Follow the chakras back to the delegates’ home states and you’ve got yourself a number you can take to the bank. I’m sure that’s how NPR does it. Now Fox News, they probably just make something up.

Lisa's picture
Lisa on July 28, 2004 - 07:45 Permalink

You’re right Peter. Both Baudrillard and Chomski were more right than they or we knew. But I think the Democrats are less guilty of this reality gap than the Republicans, because they, at least, think that there are facts underneath it all. There ARE actually poor people. There ARE actually deaths in Iraq. Also, aren’t you contributing to this effect by not talking to anyone except Matt Rainie? Gotta go. Babies calling.

Lisa's picture
Lisa on July 28, 2004 - 07:47 Permalink

Chomski being the little known second cousin of Noam Chomsky.

Lisa's picture
Lisa on July 28, 2004 - 07:51 Permalink

Who of course lives next door to Matt Rainie, not to be confused with Matt Rainnie. Ooops really gotta go now.